Lawrence High School's SAT scores last year slipped below state averages, while Free State High School's math performance on the exam leapt to a five-year high.
The College Board reported Tuesday that a 39-point divide on the verbal segment of the SAT and a 35-point gap on the math portion of the test now existed between Free State and LHS.
Steve Nilhas, in his first year as LHS principal, said it was difficult to put a finger on reasons for such variation on the 1,600-point test. The scores reflect the work of the district's senior class of 2003.
"It's not anything that, sitting here looking at the numbers, I can identify," he said.
Math and verbal sections of the SAT are graded on a 200- to 800-point scale. More than 1.4 million U.S. students took the SAT during high school.
In Lawrence, 99 students at Free State and 82 LHS students took the SAT. Nine seniors at Bishop Seabury Academy, a private Episcopal school in Lawrence, took the SAT.
"One student did have a perfect verbal score, which is great," said Chris Carter, headmaster at Seabury.
SAT composite scores:
- Free State -- 609 verbal, down 18 points; 610 math, up 2 points.
- LHS -- 570 verbal, down 17 points; 575 math, down 11 points.
- Bishop Seabury -- 639 verbal; 603 math. The 2002 class didn't have enough scores for comparison.
- Kansas -- 578 verbal, no change; 582 math, up 2 points.
- United States -- 507 verbal, up 3 points; 519 math, up 3 points.
The College Board, which coordinates the SAT, reported that the national score on the math section was the highest in at least 36 years, while U.S. students' verbal scores hit a 16-year high.
"While we certainly need to make more progress, the fact remains that we are clearly headed in the right direction," said Gaston Caperton, College Board president.
The College Board said the better scores reflected higher enrollment in math and science courses, such as physics, calculus and chemistry.
Joel Frederick, a counselor at Free State, said students were encouraged to take additional courses in core subjects of English, math and science. The result is that students are better prepared for college-entrance exams, whether the SAT or ACT.
"It's a good thing," Frederick said. "I'm not sure kids feel it's a good thing."
Nilhas said faculty at LHS would work toward improving scores on the state's standardized tests in reading and math. Focus in those areas should benefit students who go on to take the ACT and SAT, he said.
"We need to do well on all these tests," Nilhas said. "They're important to kids and families in terms of getting into college and getting scholarships."
Last week, results of the 2003 ACT exam showed the average score compiled by Lawrence and Free State seniors dropped for the second year.
The composite score of all 525 Lawrence seniors who took the exam in 2002-2003 was 23.1, down from 23.4 in 2002 and 23.7 in 2001. The state average on the four-part test in English, math, reading and science was 21.5, down 0.1. The national score was unchanged at 20.8.