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An in-depth look at our region's emerging economic, social, political and cultural identity.

Charlotte-Area SAT Scores Provide Glimpse Of College Prospects

standardized test

Average SAT scores for the Charlotte region's class of 2019 ranged from 1240 at Providence High, a large public school in southeast Charlotte, to 861 at Charlotte Learning Academy, a small, struggling charter school that closed at the end of the year.

The College Board and North Carolina Department of Public Instruction released the SAT results this week. Unlike scores released earlier as part of the state's accountability program, these numbers don't capture the performance of all students. Instead, the optional college entrance exam is one element that shows whether a student is likely to earn admisison to competitive universities.

North Carolina as a whole outperformed the national average by 52 points, with students averaging 1091 on a scale from 200 to 1600. And most Charlotte-area districts did even better -- but not as well as the Triangle districts. Chapel Hill-Carrboro topped the state with a 1287 average.

This year's national average is 1039.

But the bragging rights connected with a high average are complicated. SAT participation in North Carolina has been slipping since 2012, when the state started administering the competing ACT college readiness exam to all 11th graders. A smaller pool of test-takers generally leads to higher averages; those who pay to take the SAT are often seeking admission to selective universities. 

For instance, Union County Public Schools generally leads the Charlotte region on state exams, but logged one of the lower SAT averages at 1038. But the report shows 95 percent of Union County's seniors took the test, compared with about one-third to one-half in other Charlotte-area districts.

That's because Union County offers free in-school PSAT and SAT exams to eighth-, 10th- and 11th-graders, says spokeswoman Tahira Stalberte. That's one of the district's strategies to boost college readiness, she says: "We believe we might be the only district in the state providing this opportunity."

Both the SAT, which includes separate scores for math and for reading/writing, and the ACT, which includes scores in English, math, reading and science, were designed to predict students' chances of college success. A growing number of universities have become skeptical, making it optional for students to submit SAT or ACT results. Queens University of Charlotte, for instance, recently joined more than 1,000 schools where test scores are optional.

Here's what the 2019 SAT report shows about averages for districts in the Charlotte region, along with the 10 highest and lowest individual schools.


Lincoln County: 1118

Iredell-Statesville: 1117

Mooresville: 1111

Cabarrus County: 1104

Charlotte-Mecklenburg: 1103

Hickory: 1102

Newton-Conover: 1099

Catawba: 1092

Union County: 1078

Gaston County: 1063

Kannapolis: 994


Providence  (CMS): 1240

Merancas Middle College  (CMS): 1240

Challenger Early College (Catawba): 1228

Levine Middle College (CMS): 1226

Ardrey Kell (CMS): 1219

Lake Norman Charter: 1218

Highland School of Technology (Gaston): 1216

Gaston Early College (Gaston): 1215

Harper Middle College (CMS): 1204

Myers Park (CMS): 1199


Charlotte Learning Academy (charter, closed): 861

Garinger (CMS): 879

West Charlotte (CMS): 883

Cochrane Collegiate (CMS): 888

West Mecklenburg (CMS): 904

Harding (CMS): 919

Performance Learning Center (CMS): 923

Military/Global Leadership Academy (CMS): 924

Vance (CMS): 926

Statesville (ISS): 927

Results for all North Carolina public schools can be downloaded here.

Ann Doss Helms has covered education in the Charlotte area for over 20 years, first at The Charlotte Observer and then at WFAE. Reach her at ahelms@wfae.org or 704-926-3859.