Students' SAT scores decline 6 points Delays in results of tests upsets parents, officials

October 23, 1997|By Erin Texeira | Erin Texeira,SUN STAFF

Newly released SAT scores show Howard County students earned an average of six points less on last year's exam than they did the year before -- the first drop in several years, school officials said yesterday.

Those results came after months of delays in getting the standardized test results. Students and parents are still waiting for scores on the Comprehensive Test for Basic Skills (CTBS) and the Test of Cognitive Skills (TCS) -- given in March -- because of unexpected scoring glitches, said Leslie Wilson, supervisor of school testing.

Only a handful of school systems nationwide have not received their scores, according to Michael Kean, spokesman for CTBS.

The delays have frustrated parents, students and school officials for months, Wilson said.

"This is beyond my worst nightmare," she said. "It's definitely the worst I've seen."

On the SAT test, the combined score of the math and verbal sections -- out of a possible total of 1600 -- was 1074, said Patti Caplan, a school spokeswoman. The average math score was 545, the verbal 529.

"It's very hard to draw conclusions based on one year's data," Caplan said. "But six [points] is quite a bit. If we see another drop next year, we'd be concerned."

SAT results are usually released in mid-August to coincide with the start of the school year, according to an official at Educational Testing Service (ETS), which scores the tests.

But, like most schools in the Baltimore region, Howard high schools received their SAT results this week because school officials submitted the tests to ETS after the June deadline.

"Because of when they sent the order in, [ETS] got them in July," said Tom Ewing, an ETS spokesman.

Caplan said she has received several calls from parents concerned about the scoring delay -- but not nearly as many as she's gotten from parents waiting for results of the CTBS and TCS tests given to elementary and middle school students March 18.

"We have gotten quite a few calls," Caplan said. "People want those results, no question about that."

Kean, the CTBS spokesman, said the delays were caused by scoring glitches linked to the use of a new version of the CTBS test and the methods that Howard school officials use to calibrate results.

Howard officials use a computerized system -- called Report Mate -- to calibrate the tests. The system provides a wealth of data on student ability but was not fully prepared to handle the new version of the test, Kean said.

School officials finally received the CTBS and TCS results last week, Wilson said, but the disk they came on was inoperable. It is unclear when results will be available, she said.

"We will not be giving this test next year unless I have the scoring disk in my hand," she said. CTBS "assurances won't be enough, because I've had their assurances already."

Pub Date: 10/23/97

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