- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 26, 2003

D.C. and Virginia high school students’ average Scholastic Assessment Test verbal scores went up four points and Maryland students’ scores went up two, as local schoolchildren joined in the national trend of rising scores.

The Fairfax County public school system had its highest-ever average, at a combined 1110. Arlington public schools scores jumped 20 points from last year, bringing the system to its highest SAT level in more than a decade. Anne Arundel County high schools gained seven points to give them their highest score in 10 years.

“We’re expanding the number of kids taking the SAT, and the scores in both sections [verbal and math] are increasing,” said Charles Pyle, director of communications for the Virginia Department of Education. “And certainly that’s a positive thing.”

Mr. Pyle said the seniors who took this round of SATs made up the second graduating class required to pass at least three courses in mathematics at or above the level of algebra to earn a standard diploma. The more rigorous load probably contributed to better scores in Virginia, he said.

Nationwide, there was an average score of 507 on the verbal section and 519 in math, both up three points from last year. The combined average scores of both Virginia and Maryland were 1024, two points below the national average, though the breakdowns were different. In Maryland, the average score was 509 verbal and 515 math; in Virginia, it was 514 verbal and 510 math.

The District’s average score of 958, 484 verbal and 474 math, falls 66 points short of the national average.

Bill Caritj, the District’s assistant superintendent for educational accountability, said the scores are encouraging, but that officials have a lot of work to do to get the schoolchildren in line with the national average of 1026.

“I think there’s been a little better preparation,” he said. “More than half of 10th- and 11th-graders take the PSAT [a practice SAT test]. That’s something we’d like to get all of those students to do next year, particularly in mathematics. It will give student some helpful information for preparing for the SAT.”

Seventy-seven percent of D.C. high school seniors take the SAT, compared with 48 percent nationwide.

“One of the things the superintendent has emphasized is, we want all students to have the opportunity to go to college,” Mr. Caritj said. “And without them taking the SAT or PSAT, they probably wouldn’t be prepared for that.”

In Virginia, the average score on the verbal section was 514, seven points better than the national average. The state’s average of 510 in math was nine points below the national average. Both scores were better than last year’s scores in the commonwealth.

The state has had a seven-point increase in verbal and an 11-point gain in math since 1998, when the Standards of Learning tests were initiated.

Maryland SAT verbal scores jumped two points in verbal and in math, while the number of test-takers increased about 5 percent.

Michael Walsh, a spokesman for Anne Arundel public schools, where the combined scores were up seven points, said teachers are to be thanked for the improved scores on this year’s test because they prepared students better. He said the system will continue to work hard with students.

“There is always room for improvement,” he said, “but we are very pleased with the results.”

Montgomery County had a one-point decline in total scores, with students losing one point on the math section, but its 1094 average remains 68 points above the national average. System officials also enjoyed an 11-point increase in black students’ scores.

Prince George’s County public schools had a 10-point increase, bringing the combined score to 889. Students had a verbal average of 448 and a 441 score on math.

Combined scores in Prince William County remained the same as last year at 1019.

The 2003 average for Arlington students on the verbal test increased 14 points from 523 to 537, and the math average increased by 6 points from 529 to 535.

Alexandria City public schools, while listing scores lower than most area schools, scored a 988 after getting a 976 last year.

“Contextually, that is interesting because we have far more minorities and low-income families in our schools, compared to other local jurisdictions,” said Barbara Hunter, executive director of information and outreach.

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