Blacks and Hispanics show progress on SAT

Increase in participation among all students also heartens officials

Education Beat

News from Howard County schools and colleges

September 04, 2005|By Hanah Cho | Hanah Cho,SUN STAFF

With Howard County's average SAT score at its highest ever, school officials are encouraged by what they see as a gradual improvement among the school system's black and Hispanic students, who have consistently lagged behind their white and Asian counterparts.

Results released last week by the College Board show that the county's class of 2005 posted an average score of 1113 on a 1600-point scale - a 16-point jump compared with last year. The verbal score averaged 552; the math score averaged 561. Each section is scored on a scale of 200 to 800.

The school system's data analysis, which aimed to weed out errors, produced a slightly higher average of 1115.

Participation among all student groups increased, with 2,562 students, or 72 percent of the senior class, taking the college-entrance exam.

"That's what we're excited about, too," said Terry Alban, Howard's director of student assessment and program evaluation. "We had more students taking it, still the score went up."

School officials have evaluated SAT results over a three-year period and have been pleased with the progress and the consistent participation increases, especially among black and Hispanic students.

"The rise in part is related to participation in advanced-level courses," said Clarissa Evans, Howard's director of secondary curricular programs. "We're making sure that the increase in participation is impacting different student groups. As students participate more and more in rigorous courses, it prepares them to do better in the SAT."

Though the performance of black students dropped in 2004, it increased by 22 points this year, to a combined average score of 944, and by 10 points from 2003 to 2005.

Hispanic students made the most significant overall improvement, gaining 44 points in their total score over three years, to 1003.

While their participation increased by nearly 48 percent from last year, their year-to-year performance dropped from last year's high score of 1056.

"We'll obviously continue to work on the achievement of our student groups," Evans said. "We'll continue to work to keep our participation high, and that seems to be happening. It's really encouraging."

Asian students posted the highest score at 1201, while white students improved to 1136.

In addition to encouraging more rigorous coursework for all students, school officials also attributed gains to SAT-prep courses offered as electives at most of its high schools. Others provide after-school classes.

And, like several other school systems around the state, Howard County also offers the PSAT to 10th- and 11th-graders for free, with "research showing that practice is valuable," Alban said.

Howard school officials are expected to present a school-by-school breakdown of SAT scores at Thursday's Board of Education meeting.

Howard County performance on the SAT over a three-year period

2003 2004 2005 2003 2004 2005

Verbal Verbal Verbal Math Math Math

Male 539 541 557 573 572 579

Female 539 540 550 538 538 546

Asian 548 541 575 625 610 626

Black 474 463 479 460 459 465

Hispanic 469 520 493 490 536 510

White 551 556 566 561 564 570

Source: Howard County school system

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