By Kent Gray

Triplicate staff writer

Del Norte County students shot ahead of their peers in both the state and the nation in Scholastic Aptitude Test scores last year, according to recently released figures.

The SAT tests, which covered both verbal and math categories, are used as a barometer for colleges to assess how well high school graduates are prepared for college.

Last year, Del Norte students averaged well above the state and national averages in both categories.

andquot;There's a misperception out there that we don't prep our kids for college, and that is not true,andquot; said Del Norte High School teacher Alison Eckart. andquot;We had three kids go to Berkeley last year, three again this year, and others going to Duke, Cal Poly, Stanford and others ... Our expectations in academia have increased immensely in the last 10 years.andquot;

According to Del Norte County Unified School District numbers, local students have risen above state and national averages in years prior, but not by a significant amount - and not in both categories in the same year.

Last year, there was a sharp rise in both categories locally, which greatly surpassed state and national averages.

The average SAT score for verbal skills last year was 499 in California and 507 nationwide. Del Norte scored an average of 524. In math, the average was 519 for both California and nationwide. Del Norte students scored an average of 541 in math.

The improvement is credited to more focused training on taking SAT tests, more rigorous math classes, and the involvement of college counselors, according to head counselor Dave Zuber.

andquot;If they've been doing well in class all along, then they are well prepared for it (the SAT tests),andquot; said Principal Jan Moorehouse.