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Educators assess dip in SAT scores

September 03, 1997

By DAVE McMILLION

Staff Writer

A dip in Scholastic Assessment Test scores among Washington County high school students could be related to the fact that more pupils are taking the exam, teacher say.

Also, students are taking tougher math courses, but it will take time to see the results of those efforts, said teachers.

Teachers stressed that the scores for the 1996-97 school year were not significantly different from those of previous years. The scores for math and verbal categories at individual schools dropped from between one and 26 points.

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"It's just not a significant difference," said Richard Martin, principal of South Hagerstown High School, where the average SAT score for math dropped from 510 to 494 between 1996 and 1997.

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

Byers said she has asked 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.

Other school board members expressed concern about the scores Tuesday night. Board member Doris J. Nipps said SAT scores not only affect a students ability to get into college, but whether the student will get financial aid.

"The colleges are now only taking the best and the brightest, and the best and the brightest are the ones with the high SAT scores," said Nipps.

Maryland colleges typically look for a composite SAT score of about 1,000.

South Hagerstown High School had the lowest average math score among the county's seven high schools, and Boonsboro had the lowest average verbal test score with 490, according to figures released by the school board.

Three of the county's high schools - Boonsboro, Clear Spring and North High - logged declines in both categories.

The state average score for verbal and math categories was 507. Nationwide, the average score for the verbal category was 505 and for math it was 511, according to the Board of Education.

Martin said when more students take the test, there is a chance that more students are discovering that they do not have all the skills they need.

Helen Becker, principal at Boonsboro High School, said it's hard to pinpoint why the school's average verbal score dropped by 13 points and the average math score dropped by 26 points.

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