- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 30, 2000

Most local school jurisdictions recorded little change in their students' overall SAT scores this year from last year, despite a national trend showing marked increases in math scores among college-bound high school seniors.

Only the District of Columbia reflected that trend, with its students scoring an average of 408 in math, about 11 points higher than last year. The District's average SAT math scores had fallen about 11 points over the last five years.

"We are encouraged by the scores, though we want to be at the national average," said Duvon Winborne, executive director for educational accountability for D.C. public schools. "We're happy that we're making some advancements."

The District's average SAT scores 408 in the math portion, 414 in the verbal portion still rank among the lowest in the nation. Its combined score of 822 is nine points higher than last year's.

Nationally, the average math score in the Scholastic Assessment Test rose about three points, to 514, its highest mark in 31 years. The average SAT verbal score held steady at 505 for the fifth year in a row, and the overall average is 1,019.

At the state level, Maryland's graduating seniors scored an average of 509 in math, two points higher than last year. The verbal score remained at 507, as it has for the last five years.

Virginia's seniors posted slight gains over last year in both sections of the standardized test. They scored one point higher in math, to 500, and a point higher on the verbal portion, to 509.

Statewide, the racial and ethnic differences in test results changed little. Blacks in Virginia posted an overall average score of 848, the same as last year's and 161 points lower than the state's average of 1,009 this year.

Blacks in Maryland scored a combined average of 846, two points lower than last year's and 170 points lower than this year's average of 1,016.

"We need to increase the numbers of African American students taking the SAT, and, at the same time, we need to ensure that we have prepared them adequately for the test," said Maryland School Superintendent Nancy A. Grasmick.

A noted exception is Anne Arundel County, where black students improved their scores by 15 points over last year, from 898 to 913.

Meanwhile, Montgomery County recorded its highest SAT math average in 27 years 557, a point higher than last year's score. But its overall average score of 1,093 marks a drop by three points from last year, due to a decline on the verbal portion.

"Given the rapid demographic change in the school system over the past 10 years, coupled with an increase in the percentage of students taking the test, it is remarkable that the systemwide average scores have remained somewhat constant," said Montgomery County Superintendent Jerry D. Weast.

Prince George's County scores changed little from last year, and are still lower than state and national averages. Math scores dropped one point and verbal scores fell two points.

In Virginia, Fairfax County scored three points higher on the math portion, to 556, and one point higher on the verbal part, to 542. Math scores have steadily increased since the mid-1990s.

"Although our scores have fluctuated over the last five years, we are pleased with the overall upward trend," said Fairfax County schools Superintendent Daniel A. Domenech. "I am particularly pleased that the average score for the mathematics section is at a six-year high."

Loudoun County improved its math scores by two points, to 519, and verbal scores by one point, to 527. The math scores are the best in the school district's history.

In Arlington County, the combined average SAT score reached its highest level in nine years 1,058, one point higher than last year's. The score exceeded Virginia's overall average and the national average, as it has for the past 21 years.

Alexandria recorded a four-point decrease in its math score, to 476, and an overall drop of eight points, to 953.

Prince William County schools did not have SAT data available yesterday.

The College Board administered the SAT to a record 1.26 million students nationwide this year.

The results, released yesterday, are based on the College Board's adjusted scale, phased in five years ago.

The new scoring system, which is based on the performances of students who took the test in 1990, lowered the benchmarks needed to post an "average" score. Under the new system, the College Board adds about 30 points to individual math scores and 80 points to verbal scores.

Students can earn up to 800 points on each of the two portions of the exam. The three-hour exam is considered a measure of students' ability to tackle college-level work.

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