Wareham School Committee reviews high school SAT, advanced placement scores

Jan 3, 2018

School officials said they are pleased with consistent scores in advanced college-level courses offered at Wareham High School. However, some School Committee members saw a problem with the number of students taking those courses as well as the SAT test.

On Wednesday, Wareham High School Principal Scott Palladino presented five year’s worth of data on SAT results and advanced placement exam test scores. Advanced placement courses are college-level courses available to high school students. Students with high enough test scores in those courses earn college credits. A score of at least three out of five is required to receive college credit.

Committee members Geoff Swett and Chair Judy Caporiccio pointed to bright spots in both the English language composition and U.S. history scores. Swett said in the English section that out of 31 students, 13 scored a three or higher. Overall, students scored a 2.55 average.

In U.S. history, Caporiccio applauded a jump in students taking the course, up to 20 in 2017 compared to 7 students in 2016. Section average scores went up from 1.43 to 2.85 over the same period.

“That’s great the scores went up,” she said. “I always look at how we stack up to ourselves, how we do year to year.”

When it comes to the SAT, committee member Laurie Spear questioned why only 52 percent of students opt to take the test. The state average for SAT test participation is 69 percent. Wareham’s percentage is higher than the national average, which is 47 percent.

Palladino said he believed students weren’t taking the SAT test because many attend a two-year college before transferring to a four-year school, which saves money. After earning college credits at a lower cost, many move to a four-year school to earn their degree.

“Our kids are pretty smart and savvy when it comes to financial decisions,” said Palladino. He estimated roughly 80 percent of graduates go on the higher education after leaving Wareham High School.

When it comes to the number of students taking advanced placement classes, 15 percent of Wareham students opted for the college level courses in 2016. The Massachusetts average is 33 percent and the national average is 28 percent. Results for 2017 aren't available yet.

Palladino said he was “surprised” at the number of Wareham students taking those courses, saying he’d like the percentage to be closer to 20 percent. The students that did take the courses fared well, Palladino said.

In the biology course, Wareham students averaged a score of 2.33 in 2017 while the state average was a 3.13. In the calculus AB course, Wareham students averaged 1.91 in 2017 while the state average was 3.17. Wareham’s average is down from 2016 when students averaged a score of 2.31 in that course.

Wareham students taking English language composition in 2017 earned an average of 2.55. The state average that year was 3.15.

Palladino reported that Wareham students made strides in SAT scores, but “not to get too excited” because the test changed in 2017. Due to that, SAT scores can’t be compared to previous years.

He did note that comparisons between Wareham scores and the state and national averages were warranted. In the SAT evidence-based reading and writing section, students scored 524 in 2017, up from 472 in 2013. Regarding SAT math scores, students averaged a score of 496, up from 466 in 2013.

The state average for reading and writing was 555 in 2017 and 551 for math in 2016. National averages for reading and writing and math were 533 and 527, respectively. The highest possible score on an SAT test, taking the combined scores of both sections, is 1600.

Overall, Palladino said he was pleased with Wareham’s scores.

“I think our students are working hard, they’re improving,” he said.