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County SAT scores dip slightly

September 02, 1997

By KERRY LYNN FRALEY

Staff Writer

While average SAT math scores inched up statewide and nationally, Washington County's last class of high school seniors averaged a slightly lower math score than the class before them, according to figures released by the Washington County Board of Education this week.

County students' mean score on the math section of the Scholastic Assessment Test dropped from 505 in 1995-96 to 501 in 1996-97, according to the figures.

The state and U.S. mean math scores both went up three points - from 504 to 507 for Maryland seniors, and 508 to 511 for seniors nationwide.

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Each question is worth seven to 10 points.

County students showed a one-point improvement on verbal scores, which remained constant at 507 statewide and 505 nationally, according to the figures.

County students' mean verbal score went from 499 in 1995-96 to 500 in 1996-97.

Frederick County, Md., students' mean scores went up 12 points to 532 for math and six points to 522 for verbal, according to Frederick County Board of Education figures.

Washington County's percentage of test takers went up from 47 percent of graduating seniors in 1995-96 to 49 percent in 1996-97.

Rates were 63 percent of seniors in Frederick County, Md., 64 percent statewide and 42 percent nationally.

Washington County Board of Education President B. Marie Byers said she was very disappointed with the results, which she thinks reflect the school system's shortcomings in cultivating its most talented students.

"I think we have been remiss in not focusing on the skill of those students, not helping them achieve to the best of their abilities. I think our expectations are not high enough," Byers said.

Byers said she has asked the math and language arts supervisors to go over the results and their departments' approaches to test preparation to come up with a strategy for improving SAT scores.

"I've asked the questions `What are we doing?' and `What are we planning to do?'" she said.

Byers said she thinks poor staff development is largely to blame for students' underachievement.

"We have a very qualified staff that really hasn't been given the tools. I'm looking forward to a new team supporting excellent classroom teaching and improving achievement of our students," she said.

Acting Superintendent Linda F. Barkdoll said she hopes to see scores continually rise at all levels.

"If we don't see that trend, we need to look at what we can do to turn those scores around," Barkdoll said.

Washington County's combined mean SAT score of 1,001 exceeds the University of Maryland system's entrance requirement of 950, said Joe Millward, supervisor of pupil personnel and guidance.

"An average of 1,000 is not bad countywide," Millward said.

And even lower-scoring students have a shot at getting into a four-year college if they really work at it, he said.

"Sometimes other things outweigh the SAT scores. It's not etched in stone for the most part," Millward said.

High scholastic achievement in high school or a successful year or two at a junior college could offset low scores, he said.

Millward said the school system's goal is to encourage every student with even a remote interest in pursuing higher education to take the SAT.

The 1995-96 and 1996-97 SAT scores can't be compared to scores of previous years because the College Board changed its scale to place national averages for both verbal and math closer to 500.

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