SMITHFIELD -- SAT scores released last week by the College Board show Johnston County Schools two points ahead of the state average.
Johnston County students registered a composite score for reading and math of 999.
The average critical reading score for the district was 487, down five points from last year, while the average math score was 512, also down five points from last year.
Countywide, SAT scores fell by 10 points from 2011’s 1009 average.
Johnston County School’s chief academic officer Rodney Peterson said a decrease in scores could be the result of an increase in participation.
The district’s participation rate among seniors increased 0.4 percent, from 867 seniors taking the test in 2011 to 939 seniors taking the test in 2012.
“Johnston County Schools had an increase of 72 seniors take the SAT last year,” Peterson said.
“Trend data indicates that when there is an increase in participation, scores show a decline,” he added.
Peterson is confident that the increased participation rates mean that more students are ready for the SAT and ready for college.
“That tells me that our focus on college and career readiness is in full swing,” Peterson said.
“We have more kids leaving our schools as seniors prepared to go to college.”
At Clayton High School, where scores were slightly higher than the county average, at 1018 for combined reading and math, Principal Clint Eaves says the school is continuing to focus on improving scores.
The school provides free after-school tutorials ahead of each scheduled test, as well as online tutorials that students can work on during lunch.
While Clayton High had a decrease in the number of seniors taking the test this year, Eaves attributes that to the guidance department counseling students about whether they really need to take the test based on their goals after high school.
“A lot of kids think they just have to take it no matter what,” Eaves said.
“(The guidance counselors) did a better job educating students on who needed to take the SATs.”
But the question of who needs to take the SATs might change dramatically this year after the state mandated that all high school juniors take the ACT test.
Michael Taylor, the principal at Smithfield-Selma Senior High School, said his school will begin focusing on prepping students for the ACT rather than the SAT.
Because there is a change now in the perception of which test students should take, the school is developing an online, web-based tutorial for ACT preparation for the students to use during the school day.
“In the past, students in North Carolina assumed the SAT was the only test to take in order to get into post-secondary institutions,” Taylor said.
“If we have more students wanting to take the ACT, then we’ll try to funnel our resources in that direction to support a greater majority of our students.”