More York County high schoolers took the SAT last year, while their performance stayed on par with the year before.

The traditional exam for those considering college or other post-secondary endeavors saw a participation increase of about 30 students per school, with Dallastown Area High School jumping up from 309 students taking it two years ago to 360 last year.

Usually on the SAT, an increase in test takers means a drop in scores because students with a wider range of abilities are involved.

But York County students managed to maintain their verbal, math and writing cumulative scores.

The 17 schools, including Red Land High School in West Shore and the York County School of Technology, had an average cumulative score of 1,456 last school year, one point above the 2010-11 scores. The maximum score is 2,400.

Individual schools:York Suburban Senior High School, as usual, finished at the top of the county by cracking the 1,600 cumulative score mark. And that's despite 34 more students taking the SAT.

York City's William Penn Senior High School finished at the bottom with an 1,100 cumulative score. But the school also had a new initiative, the Bearcat Bold, that required students to take the SAT in order to walk at graduation.

That led to 55 more students' taking the test in 2011-12 compared to the year prior, which had York City administrators glowing when they reported to the school board.

Good, bad news: Getting more students to take the test can be a double-edged sword, said West York Superintendent Emilie Lonardi.

"The good news is, more kids are taking it," she said, as West York had 20 more high schoolers taking the SAT. "The downside

is, the more kids take them, the scores usually go down."

West York, as it turned out, was an exception to the rule last year as scores slightly went up. But Lonardi said in general, people should use caution when judging SAT results since schools don't have control over who takes them, and outside of a prep course, students are basically on their own to succeed.

Dallastown probably had more students take the SAT last year than in any recent year, said principal Alan Fauth. It's hard to pinpoint a specific reason, he added.

"The concept of talking about where you're going when you're out of high school, we take that seriously. We are a school that encourages students to participate," Fauth said.

New Hope Academy, a secondary charter school, had 50 more students take the SAT due to a combination of increased enrollment and the school pushing students to consider life after high school, said chief academic officer Karen Schoonover.

"It's better to have it and not need it," than to skip taking the SAT, she said.

Showing improvement: Northeastern might have had the best year on the SAT. They were able to increase test takers from 109 students two years ago to 140 students last year, and had better scores across the board.

Principal Mathew Gay said there's no one single factor to the success, but he thinks part of it is Northeastern's renewed commitment to post-secondary planning, as well as more rigorous courses.

"There's a sense that it's not OK at Northeastern for kids to graduate and not have a plan," Gay said. "Our community has shifted. They are buying into that idea as well."

-- Reach Andrew Shaw at ashaw@yorkdis patch.com