Overall Scholastic Assessment Test scores this year in Carroll County matched last year's, although the graduating class of 1994 scored higher on math and lower on the verbal part of the test than the class of 1993.
It all evened out to the same total score -- an average of 924. Carroll students scored an average of 431 on the verbal portion and 493 in math. Last year's graduating class scored 439 on the verbal and 485 on the math tests.
As usual, Carroll's average total score was higher than the state average of 908 and national average of 902. The five-year trend in Carroll also shows a greater improvement than the state and nation in math and verbal portions.
Within the county's five high schools, South Carroll High showed the only marked increase this year. South Carroll's average score is 938 for the class of 1994, compared with 902 last year and averages of 891 to 898 since 1990.
The increase was in math and verbal portions at South Carroll.
At North Carroll High School, scores dropped to 873 this year, but only compared with last year's unusual high of 929. In previous years, the school's average has been 874 to 885.
Westminster High School had the highest average this year, at 946, up two points from 1993.
Liberty High School's average was 929, up from 920 last year.
Francis Scott Key High School's class of 1994 scored an average of 893, compared with 890 for the class of 1993.
Peter B. McDowell, county director of secondary education, said the fluctuations in each building, especially the smaller schools, can be caused by a few students who happen to score high.
Judith Backes, supervisor of testing for Carroll schools, said a look at the five-year trend is a better way for a school system to assess its performance on the SAT.
"I think we're always a little bit hesitant to place a lot of emphasis on the [changes each year]," said Ms. Backes. "We have only so much impact on the scores in a direct way.
"We don't like to pat ourselves too strongly on the back because we could see a drop the next year," she said.
Over the past five years, Carroll seniors' scores on the math portion of the test have gone up by 24 points, compared with one point for the state and three points for the nation.
In the verbal portion, the Carroll scores have gone up only six points over the past five years, compared with a one-point drop for both the state and nation.
The SAT scores for a county can fluctuate based on the percentage of the graduating class that takes the test. The idea is that the more who take the test, the more likely some will not be as prepared, and the more likely the scores will be lower.
In Carroll, however, the participation rate has stayed virtually the same over the past three years, at 58.7 percent this year.
A well-rounded academic schedule of classes gives a student a better chance at scoring high on the test, Mr. McDowell said. School officials recommend such a schedule to students who think they might take the test some day.
"We try to market that, because parents want their kids to do better on the SAT," Mr. McDowell said.
In particular, studies have found that students who take two classes -- introductory analysis (a high-level math course) and British literature -- tend to score high on the test, Dr. Backes said.
In 1993, Carroll had significantly more students taking those classes than in 1992. For British literature, the number of students went from 326 to 394. Introductory analysis went from 546 students in 1992 to 584 in 1993.
"That surprises me," Mr. McDowell said of the large increase, after tallying the enrollment for the first time. "That's phenomenal. I thought maybe they would be up a little bit."
Westminster High School Principal Sherri-Le W. Bream said she stresses to parents that a solid academic schedule is more helpful to students than an SAT preparatory course, although the school also offers the preparatory course.