Arundel's average SAT score up, results show

2004 class' total rises 4 points over 2003, but participation dips

September 01, 2004|By Liz F. Kay | Liz F. Kay,SUN STAFF

Anne Arundel County students earned their highest average SAT score in a decade on the most recent round of tests, besting state and national totals with a combined score of 1059 - an increase of four points over the previous year, school officials said yesterday.

Verbal scores on the college-entrance exam increased among Anne Arundel students - up three points to 523 for the 2003- 2004 school year. Average math scores increased by one point, to 536 of the maximum 800 points.

Statewide, the 2004 class of high school seniors performed slightly better than last year's seniors, according to results released yesterday by the College Board, which administers the SAT.

Maryland's average math score stayed the same as last year, 515, and its verbal score increased by two points to 511. The national overall average, which was equal to the state average, did not improve.

But scores throughout the metro area were mixed - they increased in Baltimore City and in Howard County, but dropped in Harford, Carroll and Baltimore counties.

Except for the city and Harford County, the region's school systems posted scores above the state and national average, both 1026 on a 1600-point scale.

About 41,000 students who graduated in 2004, or 68 percent of the class, took the SAT as a result of local and state efforts to encourage more youngsters to aim for college, 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."

In Anne Arundel, participation decreased, with 51 percent of seniors taking the test last year compared with 55 percent the year before. Superintendent Eric J. Smith said he was disappointed in the participation rate. One of his goals is to have 75 percent of seniors taking the SAT by 2007.

"I'm pretty confident we will see increases in the future," he said.

However, Smith said schools that don't have a reputation of high scores showed improvements in the most recent round of tests. The average score of students at Southern High in Harwood, for example, increased by 37 points to 1096.

"They're really stepping out. They're showing what they're made of, and doing well," Smith said.

Smith said the SAT tests a range of skills and represents a culmination of studies.

"What we're looking for is a steady gradual increase year to year," he said. "That indicates all the prior knowledge and learning is paying off."

Anne Arundel math scores, for example, have steadily increased over the last few years. "It's good to see a trendline, not just a spike up and down," Smith said.

Director of Program Planning Jonathan Brice said that the school system is analyzing the data to determine why participation fell. He said that with this sort of testing, scores typically decrease as participation increases, and vice versa.

That theory appeared to prove true in Baltimore and Carroll counties.

The Baltimore County district's average score dropped from 1034 to 1027. That county's average verbal score declined from 512 to 509. The average math score declined by four points, to 518 from 522. Participation there increased slightly to 51 percent of the 2004 class.

School officials attributed the increase in part to their encouragement of participation in challenging classes and assessments, such as the SAT. The district has also partnered with the College Board to provide staff training, parent conferences and workshops, and other resources. Since 2000, Baltimore County's overall average SAT score has risen by 30 points.

Carroll County's combined average score dropped 11 points to 1,037, although it still outpaced the state and national averages. The participation rate rose a point to 61 percent.

In Baltimore, the average SAT score among the more than 2,100 students who took the test was 803, an increase of two points from the previous year, but well below the state and national averages. The average math score rose four points to 400, while the average verbal score was 403, a two-point decrease.

Participation among seniors in Baltimore rose by 5 percentage points to 53.2 percent.

Frank Destefano, the Baltimore district's director of high schools, said he was pleased to see a slight increase in overall scores with more students of varying abilities having taken the test. "When you have more students taking it, the normal trend is to see a dip," he said.

Students in Howard County posted a one-point jump this year to a 1097 average score. Howard's total score last year was 71 points higher than the state and national averages. About 75 percent of the 2004 class took the exam.

In Harford County, there was little change from last year. The average score was 1020, a one-point drop from a year ago. The math score was 512, two points lower than last year, while the verbal mark rose one point to 508.

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