Carroll students' SAT scores decline slightly

But county continues to beat state, nation on college entrance exam

September 01, 2004|By Gina Davis | Gina Davis,SUN STAFF

Despite a slight drop in their SAT scores, Carroll County students continued to outperform other test-takers statewide and nationally, earning a combined average of 1,037 points out of a possible 1,600 on the college-entrance exam.

Statewide, the 2004 class of high school seniors posted slightly better SAT scores than last year's seniors and Maryland students also showed a modestly higher rate of improvement than the rest of the nation.

Scores in the Baltimore region were a mixed bag. They increased in the city and in Anne Arundel and Howard counties, but dropped in Harford, Carroll and Baltimore counties, according to local school officials who hastened yesterday to analyze data as it was being made public by the College Board, which administers the SAT. Montgomery County led all counties in Maryland by earning the highest combined score of 1,102.

While the numbers in Carroll dipped, students still scored, on average, 11 points higher than the national and statewide averages of 1,026. Carroll students scored an average 515 on the verbal section and 522 on the math in the 2003-2004 school year.

"Initially, it's always a bit disappointing when scores go down, but on a whole these are fairly consistent with the past five years," said Greg Bricca, the Carroll school system's director of research and accountability.

Carroll school officials also pointed to an increase in the number of students taking the test, increasing the county's participation rate by 1 percentage point to 61 percent.

"It's nice that [the participation rate] did go up," Bricca said. "Certainly we'd hope that a greater percentage would take the test. ... We're still below participation numbers for the state. Our goal is to match the state."

As a result of local and state initiatives to increase participation, about 41,000 students who graduated in 2004 - 68 percent of the class - took the SAT, state education officials said.

"We have states that only have 5 percent of their kids taking these tests," said state schools Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick. "It isn't just the score, it's the participation rate."

Bricca said the idea is to encourage more students to take the test - not to increase the overall scores, but to get more students to see college as an option.

However, while more students are taking the test, the gap between male and female test-takers persists.

At all six of the Carroll high schools that had seniors last year, more girls took the test. The greatest disparity existed at Francis Scott Key, where two-thirds of the girls took the test, but only a third of the boys did.

While fewer boys took the SAT, they continued to outscore the girls in math. But the boys not only scored lower on the verbal portion of the test, they scored lower than boys did during the 2002-2003 school year.

Schools Superintendent Charles I. Ecker said he was encouraged to see the gap narrowing among other groups of students, particularly African-American test-takers.

African-American students scored a combined average of 935, a 72-point gain over 2002-2003, and 82 points higher than black students statewide scored.

While that score was still 102 points lower than white test-takers in the county, African-Americans the previous year scored, on average, 191 points lower than their white counterparts.

This year, Asian students scored the highest, with an average combined score of 1,074. They were followed by whites with 1,037, and Hispanics with 915.

Ecker said he and other administrators would further analyze the numbers in hopes of discerning what's working and what isn't.

"The [scores] shouldn't go down, but maybe there's a good reason," Ecker said. "It's too early to tell. [But] we have to find out how we can do better."

Across the region, school officials were considering the scores.

In Howard County, students continued to outperform the state and nation, posting a one-point increase this year to a combined total average of 1,097. The results put Howard's total score 71 points above the state and national averages.

In Baltimore, the average SAT score was 803, well below the state and national average. The average verbal score in city schools was 403, a two-point drop from the previous year. But the average math score went up four points to 400, for an overall increase of two points.

The average SAT score of Anne Arundel County students increased by four points to reach 1,059. Students received higher verbal scores - up three points to 523. Average math scores increased by one point as well, to 536.

Baltimore County's average score dropped seven points, to 1,027. The average verbal score declined by three points, from 512 to 509. The average math score declined by four points, from 522 to 518.

Harford County students averaged 1,020, a one-point drop from a year ago.

Bricca, the Carroll official, said his county's results are "not raising any red flags."

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