More Passed Ap Tests

Grasmick Calls Gain 'fabulous

' Sat Scores In Md. Hold Steady

August 26, 2009|By Liz Bowie and Childs Walker | Liz Bowie and Childs Walker,liz.bowie@baltsun.com

While SAT scores in Maryland remained relatively stable, the number of students taking and passing an Advanced Placement exam rose significantly this past school year, reflecting a national trend in the use of the rigorous high school exams.

In the data released Tuesday by the College Board, African-Americans showed progress on both tests. Although they represent only 16 percent of all the students taking AP tests in Maryland, there was a 10 percent increase in their participation over one school year. The percentage of minorities taking the SAT also rose in the state.

Maryland school leaders have encouraged high schools to offer more AP classes and have provided some funding for teacher training. Maryland had the highest percentage in the nation of 2008 high school graduates who had taken and passed at least one AP test.

State schools Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick called the AP results "fabulous" and said she hoped that Maryland would remain No. 1 when the AP rankings are released in February. Maryland saw a 9.1 percent increase in the number of scores between 3 and 5 on the test, the same as the national average. The number of students taking at least one AP test rose by 6 percent, slightly less than the national increase of 7 percent. In the past five years, the number of students taking AP tests has risen by nearly 50 percent.

Scores range from 1 to 5, with 3 considered to be passing. The Advanced Placement is considered to be a college-level exam and a score of 3 equates to a C in a college course.

Statewide scores on the SAT remained stagnant, rising a point in critical reading, staying the same in math and dropping two points in writing. Scores remained similarly stable nationwide.

College Board officials lauded 2009 seniors as the most diverse pool in SAT history, with minorities representing 40 percent of test-takers in the nation.

"What we're really doing is adding types of students who previously had not thought of themselves as college-bound," said Laurence Bunin, general manager of the SAT program for the College Board. "The fact that scores are remaining stable while we're doing that is a good sign."

Though slightly fewer Maryland students took the SAT, the diversity of the state's pool increased, with minorities representing 45.5 percent of test-takers in 2009 compared with 44.6 percent in 2008.

Statewide, about 6 percent more black students took the test than in 2008. Though their overall scores remained the lowest of any racial or ethnic group, black students improved by 4 points in reading and 3 points in math. Their math scores remained 12 points behind the national mean for black students, which contributed to an overall state deficiency in math.

With an average math score of 502, Maryland students remain well behind the national average of 515. In the past 10 years, national math scores have risen 4 points while they have dropped 7 points in Maryland.

In reading, Maryland's average score of 500 is just a point below the national average. In the past 10 years, reading scores have dropped 7 points in the state and 4 points nationwide.

There was a slight dip in the number of students taking SATs in Maryland this year, and Grasmick and other school officials speculated that it was because more students are choosing to take the ACT rather than the grueling four-hour SAT test twice. They believe that may be one reason the SAT scores have remained flat in the state.

In Baltimore County, the average combined SAT score rose by 15 points over last year to 1497, the same as the state. In addition, the number of students taking the test dropped by 16 percent - or 700 students - from last year, according to district data.

Superintendent Joe A. Hairston said the results and decrease in participation reflect the school system's focus on ensuring that students are prepared for the test so they can do well - and on getting more rigor into the instructional program.

"We were pretty much diluting our performance when we allowed students to take the SAT at the last moment," Hairston said. "The students who took the SAT this time actually were more prepared."

In Howard County, the Class of 2009 improved on all sections of the SAT and had an average combined score of 1652, higher than the state and national average.

Caryn Lasser, a two-time PTSA president at Atholton High School, led an effort to offer a PTSA-sponsored SAT prep class at a reduced price so more students could participate. The school system has also offered programs to help minority students prepare to take the test.

In Carroll County, which saw its combined average score rise 16 points to 1560, the percentage of graduating seniors taking the test this year fell 4 percentage points to 56 percent.

Baltimore City and Anne Arundel and Harford counties did not release their individual SAT data Tuesday.

Sun reporters Arin Gencer and John-John Williams IV contributed to this article.

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