Students post Howard's highest scores on SAT

1-point gain, to 1097, puts marks 71 points above state average

September 01, 2004|By Hanah Cho | Hanah Cho,SUN STAFF

Students in Howard County continued to outperform their counterparts in the Baltimore region on the college-preparatory SAT test, posting a one-point gain this year to a combined total average of 1097 out of a possible 1600.

The results, released yesterday, also put Howard's total score 71 points above the state average and gave the county its highest total ever. But school officials expressed concern that scores of the county's African-American students continue to lag.

"As long as we're making progress, it's a good sign," said Superintendent Sydney L. Cousin. "I would have liked to see the score raised by a larger number, but the fact it increased at all, it's good. The concern I have is with the subgroups. We need to analyze these results and see what we can do to work with subgroups to improve their performance on this test."

Statewide, the Class of 2004 posted slightly better SAT scores than last year's seniors, and Maryland improved more on the college-entrance exam 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 led all counties in Maryland, earning the highest score of 1102.

About 41,000 students who graduated in 2004, or 68 percent, took the SAT, a result of local and state initiatives to increase participation, 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."

For the first time, the Howard school system conducted its own analysis based on the data provided by the Educational Testing Service, which produces the standardized test, in order to cull errors and scores of students not attending Howard high schools.

Because students are not required to provide their racial backgrounds to ETS when they take the SAT, conducting an independent analysis is even more crucial as Howard works to eliminate the achievement gap among races by 2007, said Leslie Wilson, director of student assessment and program evaluation.

Howard's analysis showed a composite total of 1094, a one-point increase from the previous year. That differs from the College Board's figure because it reflects SAT data for seniors enrolled in Howard schools during the 2003-2004 school year, not all test-takers.

While participation by African-American students jumped 6 percent, they continued to underperform on the SAT - dropping their combined score by 13 points, to 921.

"We're pleased to have greater participation among our African-American students," said Clarissa Evans, Howard's director of secondary curricular programs. "We want to work harder to achieve [a higher] level of achievement for African-American students."

The combined SAT score for black students has fluctuated over the years, and school officials will continue to find ways to raise the success of black students, Evans said.

Last summer, the school system tested an SAT prep course designed to raise the achievement of Hispanic and black students with a goal of branching out to the county's 11 high schools.

This fall, eight schools - Atholton, Hammond, Howard, Long Reach, Oakland Mills, Reservoir, River Hill and Wilde Lake - are offering the prep course. The rest provide after-school classes.

The system also offers the PSAT to 10th- and 11th-graders for free to provide students and families with "feedback on their areas of strengths and areas where they could improve," said Robert Glascock, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction.

All other races in Howard scored above the state average.

Although Asian students earned the highest score, the group saw a decline of 24 points to 1150.

"We're pleased, it's a high score," Evans said. "Why it's not as high as it has been in the past is something we need to investigate and try to understand."

White students earned an average of 1120.

Hispanic students made the most significant improvement, raising their combined score by 98 points to 1057.

All of the county's high schools scored above 1000. Reservoir High School was not included in the data because its first senior class graduates next year.

Six schools raised their scores: Long Reach, Mount Hebron, Wilde Lake, Howard, Oakland Mills and Hammond.

Edmund Evans, principal of Long Reach, whose combined score jumped 22 points, to 1045, said an effort by administrators, teachers, parents and students led to the improvement.

"Some of our kids weren't thinking that they were college bound," he said. "We're trying to change their attitude."

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