Washington County students had a composite score of 47 percent, above the state composite score of 41.8 percent, according to figures.
Some of the local schools with higher composite scores - the combination of scores in the different subject areas - included Clear Spring Middle, 59 percent; Smithsburg Middle, 59 percent and Paramount Elementary with 62 percent, according to statistics.
The Maryland School Performance Assessment Program, started in 1993, sets tough standards for students by requiring them to use more critical thinking skills. The tests, administered last May, test proficiency in reading, writing, language usage, math, science and social studies.
Washington County students have shown steady improvement in the tests over the past five years by rising from a composite score of 31.9 percent in 1993 to 47 percent in 1997, according to local school officials.
The 47 percent score means 47 percent of the students taking the test performed at a satisfactory level on the exams.
The Maryland Department of Education wants school districts to reach a 70 percent score by the year 2000, said Assistant Superintendent for Instruction Theresa M. Flak.
"Yes, we have improved, but we still have a long way to go. We should not rest on our laurels," said B. Marie Byers, school board vice president.
Byers said the improvements can be attributed in part to central office staff who have been working with individual schools to help them focus on skills tested in the Maryland School Performance Assessment Program.
The assistance includes after-school conferences and summer workshops to help teachers better understand how to gauge student performance and how to analyze their work.
"We're constantly looking at curriculum enhancement," said Sherry Purkey, middle school supervisor of reading and English language arts.
School officials also released the results of the Maryland Functional Test. Washington County 11th-grade students turned in a performance on the tests similar to the performance of 11th-graders in the 1995-96 school year, scoring excellent in reading, math and writing, according to results.