- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Most of the region’s school districts reported increases in SAT scores this year, with the exception of Prince George’s County, which reported lower scores in both the verbal and math sections of the test.

The average SAT score for a Prince George’s County public school student was 881 — six points less than in 2003. The average verbal score was 442, compared to 446 in 2003. The average math score was 439, compared to 441 in 2003.

“These results are consistent with the message we are sending to the community — we need to increase the rigor of our academic program to better prepare our children to meet the educational challenges of today,” said Andre J. Hornsby, Prince George’s County Public Schools CEO.

The increased verbal scores among high school students in Montgomery and Fairfax counties and the District followed the national trend.

The average combined score of 1,102 for Montgomery County Public Schools students set a school system record. The average math score of 561 also set a county record, and the average verbal score of 541 was the school system’s first increase in five years.

“The gains in SAT performance reflect the structural and content improvements implemented in the system’s high schools over the last five years,” said Jerry D. Weast, Montgomery County Public Schools superintendent.

The tests are given to college-bound students, and the results become a significant part of their college applications. The results are based on the College Board’s adjusted scale, adopted in the mid-1990s. Under the new system, the College Board, which owns the SAT, adds about 30 points to individual math scores and 80 points to individual verbal scores.

The average verbal score in Fairfax County increased one point since 2003 to 547, but the math score decreased six points to 558. Still, the county’s results are above the state and national averages.

“Fairfax County Public Schools students continue to perform well on the SATs,” said Superintendent Jack D. Dale. “Any time you post the highest scores in your school system’s history, as [Fairfax] did in 2003, you set the bar higher for the students who follow. The slight drop in math scores was consistent with student performance nationally and statewide.”

The national average combined score in 2004 was 1026. The national average verbal score was 508, and the national average math score was 518.

The average combined score of 965 for District public school students was 61 points less than the national average, but officials were pleased that students had improved during the previous year. The average verbal score increased by five points to 489, and the average math score increased by two points to 476.

The increases “are far outpacing the gains that you see around the country,” said William Caritj, assistant superintendent for educational accountability for the D.C. public schools.

The average score for Arlington students again increased. The average combined score of 1,085 was 13 points more than last year’s score. Last year’s average combined score was 20 points more than in 2002.

Alexandria students had an average combined score of 957, with a 474 math average and a 483 verbal average. The totals were less than last years’ averages of 493 for math and 495 for verbal.

School officials in Prince William County did not release SAT scores yesterday.

The average combined score of Virginia students was 1,024.

Virginia students’ average verbal score was 515, a one-point increase from the previous year. The average math score was 509, one point less than the previous year.

Maryland students’ average score was 1,026, identical to the national average score.

The average score in Anne Arundel County was 1,059, a four-point increase.

“It is clearly evident that our emphasis on higher expectations for all our students is making a difference,” said Nancy S. Grasmick, Maryland’s state superintendent of public schools. “The work we have been doing to strengthen our curriculum, to provide good instruction based on standards, and to put support systems in place is helping all our students perform at the higher levels we expect of them.”

A record 37 percent of the seniors who took the SAT were minority students.

Next spring, College Board officials will administer a revised SAT, which will not include an analogy section, but will include a handwritten essay and more advanced-math questions.

Critics worry that the revamped test will put minorities at a disadvantage.

“If there was going to be any harm done to any group of students, we did not put that change in the test,” said Photo Anagnostopoulos, senior vice president for product development at the College Board.

The upcoming changes were prompted by college administrators’ demands for more ways to evaluate applicants’ writing abilities. The College Board said that cultural bias will not be a factor in question selection or grading.

However, some are skeptical.

“It’s going to be particularly difficult for kids whose first language is not English because of the very tight time restrictions on writing that essay,” said Bob Schaeffer of FairTest, an organization critical of the SAT.

Results from the new SAT will not be released for two years. Members of the high school class of 2005 generally will be using the old test, to be administered for the last time this fall, as they apply to colleges.

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