- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 28, 2002

Most local school districts recorded a slight drop in their students' overall SAT math scores this year from last year, despite a national trend showing marked increases in the subject among college-bound high school students.
Only Alexandria, Montgomery and Prince William county schools reflected the national trend, with their students scoring an average of six points higher on the math portion of the exam than students elsewhere in the Washington metropolitan area.
Schools in Anne Arundel, Prince George's and the District saw a slight decline in their math scores. Fairfax County saw an eight-point drop from last year's average math score of 564. Arlington County did not release its scores yesterday.
Nationally, the average math SAT score in the Scholastic Assessment Test rose about two points, to 516, its highest mark since 1969. Verbal scores, however, continued to decline, to 504 points. The combined average score is 1,020 nationally.
The data were released yesterday by the College Board, which administered the SAT to 1.3 million high school seniors in the class of 2002. The SAT combined with grade-point averages is used by many colleges and universities as a benchmark for admission.
Gaston Caperton, the College Board president, said math scores have increased by 15 points over the past 10 years, and attributed the increase to a renewed emphasis on math in high school.
"This year's scores confirm that the efforts that have been made to improve math education in the United States are paying off," Mr. Caperton said at a news conference here. "It is time to put that same kind of concerted energy behind ensuring that students reach their potential as skilled readers and writers."
Bob Chase, president of the National Education Association (NEA), said the scores demonstrate that "more students have tackled challenging course work, especially in math and it shows."
But Jeanne Allen, president of the Center for Education Reform, a Washington-based advocacy group, called the results unimpressive. "The SAT has been restructured now so many times that even modest improvement in math scores, for example, doesn't mean much," she said.
The results are based on the College Board's adjusted scale, phased in five years ago. Under the new system, the College Board adds about 30 points to individual math scores and 80 points to verbal scores. Nationally, 616 students scored the maximum 1,600 points on the exam.
A record 35 percent of the seniors taking the SAT were minority students. The gap between white students and most minority groups continued to widen this year.
Blacks averaged 430 on verbal and 427 on math, compared with 527 and 533 for whites. Among Hispanic students, Mexican-Americans scored 446 verbal and 457 in math, while Puerto Ricans scored 455 verbal and 451 in math. Asian-Americans recorded average scores of 501 in verbal and 569 in math.
Locally, D.C. students scored a combined average of 953, three points lower than last year 473 on math, down one point from last year, and 480 on verbal, two points lower than last year.
Maryland students scored an average of 513 in math, three points higher than last year. The verbal score is 507, a one-point drop from last year.
Scores in Virginia remained steady. Seniors scored an average of 506 in math and 510 in verbal. Last year, they scored 501 in math and 510 in verbal.
Despite the drop in its math scores, Fairfax County scored higher on math than students in other parts of Virginia and the country, with an average score of 556. The average math score last year was 564. The county's overall verbal score is 540, a 12-point drop from last year.
Alexandria recorded a 13-point increase in its combined average score this year, to 976. City students scored 485 in verbal and 491 in math. Last year, students scored 478 in verbal and 485 in math. Prince William's overall scores dropped slightly. Students scored 515 on verbal and 504 on math. Last year, they scored 516 in verbal and 495 in math.
Prince George's County's overall average score of 879 marks a drop by seven points from last year, due largely to the decline in its verbal score. Students scored 443 in verbal, five points lower than last year, and 436 in math, two points below last year's average.
Montgomery County scores showed little change. Students there scored 535 in verbal, a one-point decrease from last year, and 560 in math, a four-point increase. Anne Arundel scores also remained steady. Seniors scored 515 in verbal and 533 in math. Last year, they scored 517 in verbal and 535 in math.
Staff writer Denise Barnes contributed to this report.

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