Seniors' SAT scores fall 7 points Decline in math causes most concern

August 24, 1993|By Mark Guidera | Mark Guidera,Staff Writer

Howard County's college-bound seniors scored lower on the verbal and math portions of the Scholastic Aptitude Test this year, school officials said yesterday.

The average score of the 1,572 Howard County students who took the test during the 1992-1993 school year was 969. That combined math and verbal score was a drop of seven points from the previous year's score of 976.

Despite the drop, the combined average score was still higher than the statewide average, 909, and the national average, 902. The highest possible combined score a student could receive on the SAT, which used by colleges to gauge the potential of students seeking admission, is 1,600.

The county's average score for the verbal test was 454, down one point from the previous year, a slip school administrators said was not a concern.

But the average score on the math test, which dipped six points, did surprise school administrators.

The average math score was 515, which, though lower than last year's average score was still higher than the statewide average of 478.

"I'm not overjoyed about the drop, but we have had three years in a row of increases in the math scores, and you can never not have a leveling off effect," said Janie Zimmer-Long, coordinator of mathematics for the county schools. "One year doesn't make a trend."

The average score for the math portion of the SAT had risen 15 points in the county over the past three years.

Some school officials think the drop on this year's math score might be attributable to students' being barred from using hand-held calculators and other electronic aides while taking the test.

Such devices are commonly used as part of the math curriculum in the county, Ms. Zimmer-Long said.

"We have a lot of revolutionary changes going on in our curriculum. Technology is making possible what once was not possible in the classroom. Howard County has been in the forefront nationally in making these changes," she said.

For example, while students are taught the concept and use of square roots, they no longer are taught the algorithms used to calculate square root problems. Instead, they are taught how to determine square root problems using calculators.

Educational Testing Service, the New Jersey-based company that administers the SAT, plans to allow the use of some calculators by students taking the SAT beginning in March 1994.

State and county school officials said it was too early to tell where Howard's average scores stacked up in comparison with other counties.

Also unavailable were breakdowns by gender and ethnic group. Those statistics probably will not be available until December, said Leslie Walker-Bartnick, testing supervisor for the county public schools.

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