County average on SAT improves Students' math gains surpass state, nation

November 17, 1996|By Howard Libit | Howard Libit,SUN STAFF

Half of Howard County's high schools did better and half did worse in terms of their seniors' marks last year on the national Scholastic Assessment Tests (SAT), but the overall county average improved.

Continuing a trend, county students scored noticeably higher on the math portion of the exam than on the verbal section -- counter to how students generally perform elsewhere in the state and the nation.

"We definitely have something going on," Leslie Wilson, the county's director of testing, said of the math scores. "I don't have an explanation for it."

Wilson presented a breakdown of the county's SAT results by school to the county school board last week.

The county's average SAT math score rose three points last year to 546, and the average verbal score increased one point to 534.

The math average is the highest in county history, and the math gains posted by last year's Howard High School seniors topped the gains made by seniors both in Maryland and in the rest of the country, Wilson said.

The SAT is an examination used in the college admissions process. It is intended to indicate how well students may perform academically during their first year of college.

About three-quarters of the county's graduates last spring took the test during their high school years, a slight increase over the Class of 1995.

The graduating classes at Atholton, Hammond and Howard high schools improved both their math and verbal scores last spring compared with the classes of 1995, and the seniors at Oakland Mills scored higher on the math section.

But the scores declined on both the math and verbal sections at Centennial, Mount Hebron and Wilde Lake high schools.

Glenelg High School's Class of 1996 slipped on verbal but scored the same in math as the school's Class of 1995. The county's two newest high schools -- Long Reach and River Hill -- were not open last year.

The number of advanced placement exams also increased last spring, indicating that more students are taking more challenging courses.

Students typically take these exams after completing college-level, advanced placement courses in high school; doing well on them can enable students to receive credit for certain introductory college courses.

The number of students taking these exams last year increased by 70 students, to 545. The number of exams taken increased by 246 last spring, to 1,038, because many students take more than one exam.

But the percentage of students receiving a grade of three or higher on the exams -- the score typically required for college credit -- slipped slightly, from 82.8 percent to 78.7 percent.

"Considering the increase in the number of tests and the number of students, I'm not horribly concerned," Wilson said. "It is still a very good percentage of students getting" passing grades.

SAT scores at Howard high schools

Here's how Howard County students performed on the Scholastic Assessment Test. The 1995 category refers to students who graduated in 1995, and 1996 refers to students who graduated last spring. Howard's two newest high schools -- Long Reach and River Hill -- were not open when the tests were given.

................... Verbal ...... Math ....... Total

School .......... 1995 1996 .. 1995 1996 .. 1995 1996

Atholton ......... 527 533 .... 535 543 .. 1,062 1,076

Centennial ....... 558 556 .... 583 581 .. 1,141 1,137

Glenelg .......... 547 541 .... 553 553 .. 1,100 1,094

Hammond .......... 528 531 .... 521 534 .. 1,049 1,065

Howard ........... 506 518 .... 505 513 .. 1,011 1,031

Mount Hebron ..... 529 521 .... 550 544 .. 1,079 1,065

Oakland Mills .... 541 537 .... 538 548 .. 1,079 1,085

Wilde Lake ....... 538 534 .... 538 534 .. 1,076 1,068

County average ... 533 534 .... 543 546 .. 1,076 1,080

State average .... 506 507 .... 503 504 .. 1,009 1,011

National average.. 504 505 .... 506 508 .. 1,010 1,013

SOURCE: Howard County public schools

Pub Date: 11/17/96

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