Students in Collier and Lee counties bucked a trend of sinking reading scores on SAT college-entrance exams, but both districts still lag behind the national average.
The average reading score in Collier County increased seven points, to 491, while remaining steady in Lee County, at 489. Nationally, reading scores fell to their lowest point in 40 years, to an average of 496 points. That's down one point from last year and 34 points from 1972.
The SAT, which includes sections on reading, writing and math, is used as a tool to measure college preparedness and is required for entrance into some colleges. It is taken by college-bound high school seniors. Each section of the SAT is scored on a range of 200 to 800, allowing a maximum of 2,400 points.
The Collier district improved its composite scores, while Lee's fell. Both districts still scored below the 1,498 national average on the composite test, with an average score of 1,463 in Collier and 1,439 in Lee. The state average was 1,460.
Collier and Lee each saw a higher number of students taking the test, with the participation rate among high school seniors jumping to 60 percent from 54 in Collier and 41 percent from 38 in Lee.
Administrators said participation rates are important to consider when viewing results.
"Caution should be exercised when using these results to rank or rate teachers, educational institutions, districts or states because the SAT is only one measure and does not include all students," Beth Thompson, the chief instructional officer for Collier County Schools, wrote in a memo to Superintendent Kamela Patton.
"It's great to see more students taking the SAT, and while more students can lead to a dip in scores, that's something we simply must correct," Lee schools Superintendent Joseph Burke said in a prepared statement.
On the writing portion of the exam, Collier scores increased six points, to 474; Lee scores dropped two points, to 469. Those scores lag behind the national average of 488, which is the lowest number since the College Board added an essay-writing section to the test in 2006. That year, the average score was 497.
On the math section, Collier saw a four point leap, to 497, while Lee dropped three points, to 481. Nationally, math scores remained steady, at an average of 514 — down from the peak score of 520 recorded in 2005.
Based on the national scores, the College Board calculated that 43 percent of test takers were well-prepared for studies at four-year colleges. That number, based on the percentage of students earning a combined 1,550 points — a sign they would score a B- average or better in year one of college — is the same as in 2011.
"When less than half of kids who want to go to college are prepared to do so, that system is failing," said Gaston Caperton, president of the Manhattan-based College Board, which sponsors the admissions test.
The McClatchy-Tribune News Service contribued to this story