County SAT scores fall for third year

Data show students did better than peers in state and nation, but results were lower than last year

August 31, 2008|By Nicole Fuller | Nicole Fuller,nicole.fuller@baltsun.com

Anne Arundel County students continue to score higher on SAT tests than their peers across the state and nation, but their results on the critical college indicator test fell for the third consecutive year, according to data released this week by the test administrator.

County students who took the SAT in the 2007-2008 school year scored an average of 1,514 points, 16 points better than the state average and three points higher than the national average, but it was a five point decrease from last year, according to the College Board. In 2007, county students scored an average of 1,519 points, a drop from an average score of 1,551 in 2006.

The SAT, which is used by colleges and universities as an admissions criterion, consists of three components: reading, math and writing. Anne Arundel students scored a 516 in math, a 496 in writing and a 502 in critical reading, a five point drop from 2007, when the critical reading score was 507.

Meanwhile, the number of students taking the test has increased, from 2,867 last year to 2,887 this year.

Anne Arundel school officials are celebrating what they called a significant increase in the number of African-American students taking the SAT, a number that rose by 16 percent this year to 491 students. Participation also rose 7 percent among Asians, but decreased 5 percent among Hispanic students.

"I am pleased that as the bar is being raised, our students are continuing to meet the challenges set before them in terms of competing with other students in Maryland and the United States," school superintendent Kevin M. Maxwell said in a statement. "I am particularly pleased with the results for our African-American students. We are continuing to enhance opportunities for all of our students, and this is an area in which we are clearly beginning to see the fruits of our labor."

School officials are attributing the decrease in average score, in part, to the higher number of students taking the SAT, many of whom may be first-time test takers. Another factor, is the increasing popularity of a rival test, the ACT, which saw an increase in scores across the state this year.

In Anne Arundel, 466 students took the ACT this year, up from 224 students four years ago.

Some have pointed to the writing component of the SAT, which was added three years ago, making the test considerably longer, as a reason for an uptick in ACT test-takers. Many students, according to school officials, have taken the SAT, then opted for the ACT, rather than retaking the long test. Traditionally, students have earned higher scores on subsequent SAT examinations, whether through further study or a familiarity with the test. The maximum score for the SAT is 2,400 points.

At Annapolis High School, like many schools across the county, guidance counselors have been pushing for more students to take the test, registering online the students who don't have Internet access. The school also offers an SAT preparation course, headed by a math and an English teacher, that juniors and seniors can take as an elective. Fifty-one students at Annapolis High School, for example, took the ACT in 2008, up from 33 in 2007.

"Sometimes what students need is for somebody to say, 'You can do this. You may not think you can do it, but you can do this,'" said Robert Mosier, a school department spokesman.

Carlesa Finney, director of the office of equity assurance and human relations at the school system, said the department has made a concerted effort in the past five years, and particularly in the past two since Maxwell became superintendent, to reach out to more students in order to increase participation in the SATs and other rigorous course work, and testing such as Advanced Placement.

"I think it's important for us to look at both ends, the under-preparedness of students, and the lack of resources some of our schools might have," Finney said. "It's not just the children. Some of it is what we have to do. Much of it. It's partly our responsibility to look at our role in supplying the support, whether it's technology or motivation, for students who are not consistently performing to their potential."

She said an emphasis among "cultural proficiency" on the part of teachers, principal and guidance counselors is designed to "recognize our responsibility to have high expectations for all students."

school scores

Reading Math Writing

Annapolis 503 509 497

Arundel 497 501 494

Broadneck 535 550 519

Chesapeake 490 512 499

Glen Burnie 449 462 444

Meade 476 467 462

North County 459 477 455

Northeast 479 501 480

Old Mill 496 521 489

Severna Park 546 562 539

South River 522 535 514

Southern 483 498 484

Source: College Board via the Anne Arundel County School Department

school scores

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