Charleston County is home to the second-best and 14th-best schools in the state when it comes to SAT scores — Academic Magnet and Wando high schools, respectively. But it is also home to six of the state’s 20 schools with the lowest SAT scores, including the bottom two.
In January, Superintendent Nancy McGinley described Charleston County School District as “a tale of two cities,” with wide achievement gaps along racial and economic lines, and the statewide SAT results released Monday by the S.C. Department of Education confirm that it is a district of extremes. The mean composite score at Academic Magnet was a strong 1919 (out of the redesigned test’s potential total of 2400), and at Wando it was 1545. At the other end of the spectrum, McClellanville’s Lincoln High School had a mean composite score of 1020, the lowest in the state, and North Charleston High School got a 1069, the second lowest in the state.
And while the top six high schools in the district* improved their mean scores from 2011 to 2012, five of the bottom seven actually had decreased scores. Academic Magnet was the most-improved school in the district, with an increase of 40 points overall, while the biggest drop-off was at Stall High School, where the score fell 67 points.
The district has a noticeable achievement gap in other areas. According to the most recent available data from 2011, Charleston County schools’ overall four-year graduation rate is 72 percent, but the rate is much lower for specific groups: 60 percent for African-American students, 50 percent for Hispanics, and 58 percent for students who received subsidized lunches. For this reason, the district’s Vision 2016, a performance improvement plan, includes more aggressive improvement goals for minority students than for white students.
Overall, Charleston County students earned a mean composite score of 1442, up 16 points from last year. Among public school districts, this put the district above the statewide mean score of 1422 but below the nationwide mean score of 1477. Charleston County had the 22nd-highest score of the state’s 84 school districts, coming in behind No. 21 Berkeley County (1443) and No. 12 Dorchester 2 (1463). The top-scoring district in the state was Fort Mill School District (1568), situated between Rock Hill and Charlotte, and the lowest-scoring district was Allendale County School District (1091), south of Barnwell in the lower western part of the state.
Statewide, the mean composite SAT score dropped 5 points, and nationwide reading and writing scores dropped a point to their lowest recorded levels while math scores stayed steady at 514.
Here are a few other points that can be gleaned from the data about Charleston County schools:
• Most improved: Academic Magnet High School (+40 points)
• Highest percentage of seniors tested: Academic Magnet High School (99 percent)
• Lowest percentage of seniors tested: North Charleston High School (37 percent)
• Highest critical reading score: Academic Magnet High School (644)
• Lowest critical reading score: Lincoln High School (337)
• Highest math score: Academic Magnet High School (639)
• Lowest math score: Lincoln High School (338)
• Highest writing score: Academic Magnet High School (637)
• Lowest writing score: North Charleston High School (344)
Want to take a closer look at the data? Download the Excel spreadsheets for school and district data and sort away. (If you don’t have Excel, OpenOffice.org offers free, open-source spreadsheet software.) PDFs of the data are also available for schools and districts.
* excluding Greg Mathis Charter High School (which had no seniors taking the test in 2012) and Charleston County Charter School of Math & Science (which had no seniors taking the test in 2011).