Is the 65th Percentile Excellent?
Fairfax County Public Schools average SAT score still at the 65th percentile
The Fairfax County Taxpayers Alliance has posted on its website (www.fcta.org) the SAT percentile ranks for all 24 Fairfax County public high schools. The highest-ranking school last year was Thomas Jefferson, whose average SAT score of 1482 was at the 99th percentile. (This means that the average student at Thomas Jefferson scored higher than 99 percent of the one million seniors who took the SAT.) The remaining FCPS high schools had average SAT scores between 1184 (76th percentile) and 950 (36th) percentile.
The average SAT score for all Fairfax County seniors last year was 1105, which corresponds to the 65th percentile. Despite costly new programs, the FCPS average SAT score has hovered near the 65th percentile since at least 1992. Fairfax County Public Schools does not publish its SAT percentiles.
At school superintendent Dr. Jack Dale's budget press conference a month ago, Fairfax County Taxpayers Alliance president Arthur G. Purves asked if the Superintendent believes that the 65th percentile is indicative of an "excellent" school system. Dr. Dale stated that being 15 points above the national average is indeed excellent.
"The problem," Mr. Purves said, "is that the College Board has never specified what SAT score corresponds to 'good' or 'excellent.' Given the low standards of public schools overall, the 50th percentile is probably mediocre. The 65th percentile might just be satisfactory."
Test results from the National Center for Education Statistics suggest that about 35 percent of Virginia students perform at or above grade level. This means that 65 percent perform below grade level. It is therefore likely that the average student in the sixteen FCPS high schools scoring below the 65th percentile is performing below grade level. "I wonder if the College Board would agree with Dr. Dale's definition of 'excellent'?" Mr. Purves asked.