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County students' SAT scores up and down

August 29, 2000

County students' SAT scores up and down



By TARA REILLY / Staff Writer


Average SAT scores for Washington County's graduating seniors last school year dropped four points on the verbal portion and remained the same on the math portion compared to county averages from the 1998-99 school year, according to statistics released by the Board of Education.

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Scholastic Assessment Test scores at four of the eight county high schools dropped, while scores at the other four went up.

While county averages decreased overall or remained the same as the previous school year, the scores were higher than state and national averages.

Washington County students scored one point higher than the state's verbal average and 10 points higher than the state's math average. They scored three points higher than the nation's verbal average and five points higher than the nation's math average.

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It was the second straight year that the scores were above average, said Jan Keefer, supervisor of statistical assessment and testing.

County students averaged a score of 508 on the test's verbal portion and 519 on the math portion. The state averages were 507 in verbal and 509 in math, while national averages were 505 in verbal and 514 in math.

The SAT scores apply to seniors who took the test during the 1999-2000 school year. Of the 1,127 Washington County seniors, 596, or 53 percent, took SATs, according to the Board of Education. The same percentage took the tests the previous year.

In the 1998-99 school year, 564 of the 1,073 students who took SATs averaged 512 on the verbal portion and 519 on the math portion.

Keefer called the decrease in verbal scores "insignificant," based on the number of students who took the test. She said a decrease or increase of 10 points would be considered significant.

"The previous year was the first time in 15 years that we were up in both," Keefer said. "And we did it again last year."

The SAT college entrance exam emphasizes reading comprehension and math problem-solving. The three-hour test is one of two required for undergraduate admission to most of the nation's 3,500 four-year colleges and universities.

According to the School Board, during the last five years Washington County math scores increased by 14 points while state scores increased by five points and nation scores by six points.

State and national verbal scores showed no change in the last five years, while Washington County verbal scores increased nine points.

Washington County Technical High School students showed the most improvement, increasing its combined math and verbal average by 41 points. Students there averaged a score of 925, up from 884 during the 1998-99 school year.

Clear Spring High School's combined average decreased 33 points from 1063 to 1030, more than the other high schools.

North Hagerstown High School averaged the highest math score in the county last year at 552, an all-time high, according to statistics. Also, 35 percent of North High seniors last year scored a 600 or higher on the math portion.

Williamsport High School had 70 percent of its graduates take the SAT.

Hancock Middle-Senior High School increased the percent of seniors taking the SAT by 20 percent, while South Hagerstown High School increased the percentage by 10 percent.

Students get two scores on the SAT, one for math and one for verbal. Each subject is scored on a scale of 200-800 points. The two combined are the total SAT score.

Most students take the SAT during the winter/spring of their junior year, and some retest in the fall of their senior year.

School Board President Paul Bailey said the county's overall scores are good, but the school system needs more improvement.

"It's a positive," Bailey said. "But on the verbal portion, we probably did not meet expectations. There are goals that are being worked on. But I think it's significant to note that the percentage of students taking the SAT has gone up fairly significantly in the past four or five years."

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