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
Cabarrus County: 1104
Union County: 1078
Gaston County: 1063
TOP 10 SCHOOLS
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
LOWEST 10 SCHOOLS
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.