- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 29, 2001

SAT scores decreased slightly at most area schools in 2001, but at the same time most school districts surpassed the slightly rising nationwide averages.
D.C. schools declined 12 points in both the verbal and math portions of the test, following increases in the previous two years.
The scores, 482 on the verbal portion and 474 on math, still rank among the lowest in the nation.
"We're certainly concerned about the decrease," said D.C. schools Chief Academic Officer Mary Gill. "We have teams looking at school by school, student by student to build a rigorous plan to improve scores — students' content knowledge and their ability to demonstrate it."
Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun, Montgomery and Prince William county schools also saw declines in their average combined scores. Prince George's County schools' scores remained unchanged. Despite the decline, most area school districts surpassed state and national average scores.
The data were released yesterday by the College Board, which administered the SAT to about 1.3 million seniors who planned to graduate in 2001. The test is considered to be a method of measuring a student's ability to tackle college-level work. SAT is the most widely used part of what formerly was known as the Scholastic Assessment Tests.
Nationally, the average verbal score of 506 increased by one point after remaining at 505 since 1995. The math average score remained the same at 514.
This year's test-takers included the largest percentage of minority students in history — one-third of all test-takers.
"The large number of students who are from minority groups is very heartening," said College Board President Gaston Caperton. "But there are some troubling realities that must be addressed. Scores for many … minority groups continue to lag behind … and a gender gap, though narrowed, persists."
Students can score up to 800 points on each of the two portions of the exam.
The 2001 scores are based on the College Board's adjusted scale, phased in 1995. 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.
According to the test results, both Maryland and Virginia posted one-point gains statewide. However, only Alexandria and Anne Arundel schools made any gains while Prince George's schools saw an increase in verbal scores offset by a decline in math scores. Most area school districts increased the number of students taking the test.
Alexandria schools' test scores were up slightly in the verbal portion and significantly in math, after their overall score fell eight points last year. Verbal scores in the single high school district increased by one point, while math scores increased by nine, for a total gain of 10 points. The scores remain below the national and state averages.
Montgomery and Anne Arundel counties' scores exceeded the state public school scores of 508 on the verbal part of the test and 510 on the math section, both of which increased one point over last year.
Arlington, Fairfax and Loudoun counties did better than the Virginia state average of 510 on the verbal portion of the SAT and 501 on the math part.
Even so, Arlington, Fairfax and Loudoun county public school students posted decreases on the combined math and verbal average — 17, five and 14 points respectively.
Fairfax County edged out Montgomery County in the traditional rivalry between the two jurisdictions by 24 points on the combined total.
Minority achievement was mixed in local systems.
Hispanics in Montgomery County dropped 11 points on the test, while blacks in Prince George's County increased by five points, earning scores only slightly lower than the statewide and national average for black students.
Statewide, the racial and ethnic differences in test results changed slightly. Blacks in Maryland posted an overall average score of 850, an increase of two points and 168 points lower than the state's average of 1,018 this year.
"We continue to see improvements in the scores of our African American students as well, but we still have much work ahead," said Maryland schools Superintendent Nancy Grasmick.


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