Any fears educators harbored about the readiness of the county's Scholastic Aptitude Test-takers were alleviated last week when results showed Carroll's scores were higher than state and national averages.
The average score on the verbal portion of the test among Carroll seniors was 430, up from 425 last year. The average math score was 477, up from 469, said Brian L. Lockard, assistant superintendent of instruction.
"We're pleased they went up," Lockard said. "We're not going to wave a flag and say, 'Look what we've done here.' "
That's because Carroll scores the year before fell below state averages for the first time, prompting educators to form a committeeto review test-takers'scores and the courses the Class of 1990 pursued in high school.
Although scores rose slightly this year, the county average remained below that attained from 1986 to 1989.
The committee last month unveiled a list of recommendations, including more rigorous academic course loads for SAT-takers, to the school board.
The boost in scores among the Class of 1991, though, could not be attributed to the recommendations, school officials said.
"The effects of the recommendations are long-term and should begin to appear after they're implemented this school year," said Edwin L. Davis, director of pupil services and special programs.
Unlike Carroll scores, state and nationalscores declined slightly from the year before. Carroll's total average score (both math and verbal) was 907, up from 894 in 1990. The state average was 904, down from 908 the year before. The national average was 896, down from 900.
The SAT is a multiple-choice test that measures verbal and mathematical reasoning abilities. Student performance on each part of the test is measured on a scale of 200 to 800.
The test serves both as a measure of a student's academic success and college readiness.
School officials said 776 students, or 55.4 percent of the county's graduates, took the SAT during the 1991 school year.
About 50 percent of the county's graduates generally pursue college or further technical training.
Lockard attributed the boost in Carroll scores to normal cyclical fluctuations.
Concerns arise among school officials when significant drops occur, as was the case last year when Carroll verbal scores fell 14 points from the previous year and math scores dropped 15 points, he said.
"We're pleased to see it's back up again this year," Lockard said.
Of the county's five high schools, only students at Liberty saw their average SAT scores drop from the year before. The school's combined math and verbal scores fell from 918 to 913.
School officials had no explanation for the drop.
Among the committee's recommendations to boost verbal scores on the SAT were encouraging test-takers to enroll in Composition III, survey of American literature, expository writing and British literature courses.
To improve math scores, educators recommended that students take Algebra I, geometry and Algebra II.
Educators recommended that classes in both categories include SAT practice exercises.
School officials said a review of the results of previous test scores, in Carroll and elsewhere, shows a close correlationbetween high test scores and a rigorous academic program throughout high school.
For example, students who took higher English courses, such as advanced grammar, averaged 492 on the verbal portion of theSAT, compared with a 337 average among students who took basic English courses.
The number of students taking the SAT has increased inrecent years. School officials said a handful of unprepared studentscan cause average scores to fall.
Even so, educators say that allstudents who wish to take the SAT should be allowed to, even if it risks lowering Carroll's scores.
"That's more important than setting artificial standards," Davis said.