By CLAIRE ST. JOHN
College admissions are more stringent by the year as state budgets tremble and competition gets tough, but the pressure just made the nation's 2003 high school graduates try harder.
They turned in the best SAT scores since 1987.
The SAT, a multiple-choice test that is practically a rite of passage for college-bound seniors, has long been a measure of how well a student might do in a four-year college.
Last year, seniors nationwide logged an average verbal score of 507 the highest since 1987 and an average math score of 519 the highest score since 1967, when records were first kept. The highest possible scores are 800 on each section.
Sonora, Tioga, Bret Harte and Calaveras high schools all scored above the national average on the test's verbal section, and all but Sonora High School scored above the national average on the math portion.
Summerville High School fell below the national average on both sections, achieving a 492 on the verbal and a 476 on the math section.
"That's substantially down from the last few years," Principal Dave Urquhart said.
A higher-than-usual number of students considering vocational training after high school might have brought Summerville's numbers down, he said.
"We had a non-academic group of kids last year," he said. "For vocational-type things, we kick butt."
Calaveras High School's math scores also fell a little, said Principal Mark Campbell, to two points below the national average.
Math scores are also poor on state standardized tests, Campbell said, and Calaveras High will continue to focus on improving skills.
But scores have remained consistent in the past few years, Campbell said, mostly because of an SAT preparation course offered by the Calaveras County Office of Education.
"I'm just very pleased with our prep guy (Larry Hauk-edalen)," Campbell said. "Just amazing results."
Bret Harte High School students are offered the same class, and Principal Catherine Sargent agrees that it has boosted scores.