SAT scores up slightly in county

School officials note steady improvement over past five years

`Efforts are helping'

Maryland ranks fifth of 13 states in which 65% of seniors took test

September 01, 1999|By Howard Libit | Howard Libit,SUN STAFF

High school graduates in Maryland and the rest of the country performed about as well on the SAT exams in 1999 as graduates in the previous two years, but their scores continue to lag far behind the graduates of 30 years ago.

Maryland's Class of 1999 also ranked fifth out of the 13 states in which at least 65 percent of high school seniors take the SAT, according to data released yesterday by the College Board.

The SAT test is typically taken by college-bound students and is used in the college admissions process as an indicator of how well students will do in their first year of college. The test is scored on a scale of 200 to 800.

Four of the six Baltimore-area school systems released their students' average scores yesterday, with gains reported in Anne Arundel and Baltimore counties and declines in Baltimore City and Howard County.

Howard students continued to score the highest in the area, but Anne Arundel officials pointed to improvement in scores over the past five years.

The average combined math and verbal score in Anne Arundel County was 1051 out of a possible 1600 during the 1998-1999 school year, compared to 1046 for 1997-1998, school officials said. During the 1993-1994 school year, Anne Arundel's students registered an average score of 1025.

"The most recent SAT scores reaffirm my belief that our instructional efforts are helping to prepare our young people for success in college and beyond," said Anne Arundel Superintendent Carol S. Parham.

Black students in Anne Arundel showed a five-point gain in scores, from 893 during the 1997-1998 school year to 898 last year.

Overall, the average score for Maryland seniors increased a point on the verbal from 1998, to 507, and decreased a point on the math portion, to 507. Nationally, the average math score fell a point, to 511, and the verbal score remained unchanged at 505 for the fourth year in a row.

But compared to the Class of 1969, the nation's average math score is six points behind and the average verbal score is 35 points lower.

"That's not good news," said College Board president Gaston Caperton, a former governor of West Virginia.

Caperton pledged that the College Board will try to do more to work with schools to improve achievement, including creating a Web site where students can learn more of the analytical reading and math skills required of the SAT.

About 36,000 of Maryland's 1999 high school graduates, 2,219 of them from Anne Arundel County, took the SAT during their junior or senior years -- about 65 percent of the graduating class.

While Maryland's scores have remained almost unchanged over 10 years, the percentage of seniors taking the SAT has increased 6 percentage points.

Nationally, 43 percent of last spring's seniors took the examination. In some higher-scoring states, fewer than 20 percent of graduates take the SAT. Instead, many college-bound students -- particularly in the Midwest -- take another exam, the ACT.

Of the 13 states in which 65 percent of graduates took the SAT, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont scored higher than Maryland.

Students in Baltimore City continued to score far below the state and national averages. The average verbal score in 1999 was 416 -- up a point from 1998 -- and the average math score dropped six points to 394.

But 126 more of the city's 1999 high school seniors took the examination than the previous year, for a total of 1,992 students.

School officials in Carroll and Harford counties refused to release their system's SAT scores yesterday.

The College Board also reported that Maryland students ranked seventh in the average number of Advanced Placement examinations taken per student and the average score per exam.

Advanced Placement exams are given at the end of college-level high school classes, and most colleges require a score of 3 for students to obtain college credit. The average score of Maryland students was 3.24, compared to 3.02 nationally.

Sun staff writer Kris Antonelli contributed to this article.

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