By the numbers

The SAT college entrance exam is made of three sections — critical reading, writing and math — and each part is worth a possible of 800 points. A perfect score on the test is a 2,400. To see school-by-school results, go to: ed.sc.gov/data/national-assessments

District Percentage of 2013 seniors taking the SAT 2012 composite score 2013 composite score

Berkeley 32 1,443 1,433

Charleston 65 1,442 1,447

Dorchester 2 48 1,463 1,461

Dorchester 4 8 1,332 1,326

State 51 1,422 1,423

S.C. Department of Education

After a four-year slide on their SAT scores, South Carolina public school seniors rebounded this year with better results.

The state’s class of 2013 saw its composite score on the college entrance exam improve by one point from last year to 1,423 out of a possible 2,400 — or 800 on each of the exam’s reading, math and writing sections.

The composite average among all the state’s seniors, meaning not just those in public schools, saw an even bigger jump of five points to 1,436.

Those gains bucked the nationwide trend of either stagnant or falling scores. The national average for all students was flat at 1,498, and the figure for only public school students fell three points to 1,474.

The national performance is a concern for the College Board, which administers the SAT exam. The College Board has set a score of 1,550 as its college and career readiness benchmark, and it said studies show that students who reach that level are more likely to enroll in college and complete a degree. Only 43 percent of SAT takers nationally met that score, and that percentage has been virtually unchanged during the last five years.

“While some might see stagnant scores as no news, we at the College Board consider it a call to action,” said College Board President David Coleman in a statement. “We must dramatically increase the number of students in K–12 who are prepared for college and careers. Only by transforming the daily work that students do can we achieve excellence and equity.”

In the Lowcountry, the number of test takers as well as their results fell in Berkeley as well as Dorchester 2. Dorchester 4 had the same number of test takers but a lower overall composite score.

Berkeley saw the biggest drop — 10 points from last year to 1,433, followed by rural Dorchester 4 with a six-point decline to 1,326. Dorchester 2 also saw a small decrease in students’ performance, losing two points for a composite score of 1,461.

This is the second consecutive year Charleston County schools have seen improvement on their composite score, with the district’s overall average rising by five points to 1,447. The district saw better scores on the exam’s critical reading and writing sections, and its best gain was in critical reading. Math scores fell slightly.

“I feel confident our literacy focus is beginning to reap rewards,” said Superintendent Nancy McGinley. “It underscores the need to put that same focus on math.”

Despite the improvement, its scores aren’t as good as they were five years ago; the district’s composite score in 2008 was 1,458.

McGinley said she plans to talk to principals about why fewer students are taking the SAT, as well as which students are taking the exam. She said she doesn’t judge any school on this test score alone, but rather looks at a range of results and information to make a judgment on their overall well-being.

In South Carolina, public school seniors saw a two-point gain on the critical reading and writing sections of the test, but the state still lags the national average in all three subjects tested.

“Improving the reading skills of students must continue to be our top priority as we prepare our students to be successful adults,” said State Superintendent Mick Zais in a statement.

The state also released on Thursday statewide scores for high school students on Advanced Placement exams, which are tests that often are accepted for college credit. The state’s students improved their performance on those tests, and more students than ever – 23,416 – took AP exams. School- and district-level Advanced Placement results will be released in October.

Reach Diette Courrégé Casey at @Diette on Twitter or (843) 937-5546.