A growing number of South Carolina students should be well prepped for college thanks to a statewide increase in Advanced Placement testing.

State Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman announced Friday that AP scores and participation are up over last year. A record 26,657 public school seniors took AP exams in 2015 — a 4.6 percent increase compared to 2014 graduates. Of the 42,093 exams taken ­­— another state record — more than 10 percent resulted in the highest possible score.

AP exams are graded on a five-point scale. According to the College Board, a private nonprofit that develops and administers standardized tests, many colleges and universities will grant credit for scores of 3, 4, or 5. More than half of the AP exams taken in South Carolina by graduating seniors in 2015 achieved a score of 3 or greater.

“It is encouraging to know that our Advanced Placement scores and participation continue to increase,” said Spearman in a statement released Friday. “We are on the right track to make sure that every South Carolina student is college- and career-ready.”

Berkeley County School District was one of 547 districts across the nation named to the AP District Honor Roll. School districts were selected for providing increased access to AP courses, while maintaining or increasing the number of students scoring 3 or higher on exams.

Several Charleston County high schools showed impressive numbers in terms of AP test scores. Again, Wando and Academic Magnet led the pack with both schools reporting 81 percent of tests taken scoring 3 to 5. The Charleston School of the Arts ranked third at 76 percent, followed by James Island Charter High School and Charleston Charter School for Math and Science.

When it comes to SAT scores, Charleston County continued to rise past the national average. The district average of 1,480 stacks up well next to the nationwide score of 1,462 and the statewide average of 1,428. Charleston County School District has seen an increase of almost 40 points in average SAT scores in the past five years. BCSD saw a 16-point drop in its average score, falling to six points below statewide figures.

While the state showed an overall increase in the number of graduating public school seniors taking the SAT, locally numbers were down. Charleston County saw an almost 3 percent drop in SAT testing and only 32 percent of Berkeley County seniors bothered with the exam. Over recent years, many students have moved away from the SAT as a tool for college assessment and instead opted for the ACT exam.

Seeing a need for change, the College Board is redesigning the SAT for 2016. The essay portion, which was added in 2005, will become optional and the test will return to its former 1,600-point scale, down from the current 2,400. Changes will also be made to the verbal portion of the exam. Test-makers say the vocabulary section will focus less on obscure phrases and more on words that students are likely to hear used in college classrooms.

As students get ready for the revised SAT, more South Carolina teens are getting a head start. The number of public school sophomores statewide taking the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test increased by 58 percent in 2015. Participation by African-American and Hispanic students also doubled. 

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