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County's SAT scores drop

November 16, 2005|By KAREN HANNA

WASHINGTON COUNTY

karenh@herald-mail.com

More Washington County Public Schools students are taking SATs, but the system's average scores on the college-entrance exam last year dropped, according to information presented to the Board of Education at its regular meeting Tuesday night.

The system's results on the SAT's combined sections measuring math and verbal reasoning abilities fell during the last school year from an average combined score of 1028 in 2004 to an average combined score of 1000. Seven hundred-thirty-four students in the senior class of 2005 took the test.

Superintendent Elizabeth Morgan conceded after a presentation about the scores that she is disappointed with the results. On a night the board paid tribute to the performance of its middle schools and elementary schools on state tests, Morgan acknowledged the one-year decline in SAT scores seems "out of synch."

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According to Boyd Michael III, executive director of secondary education, the SAT results reflect only the scores on the last tests taken by the 2005 seniors. Nationally, the average combined score was 1028, while the state's average was 1026.

National, state and local scores were better on the math section of the SAT than on the verbal ? the school system's average score on the verbal section of the test was just 489, while the national average was 508.

"We have not been pleased with our verbal scores, and we have been working in this area," Michael told the board.

According to Deputy Superintendent Patricia Abernethy, Hagerstown Community College does not require students take the SAT. Lew Muth, director of Frostburg State University student services at the University System of Maryland at Hagerstown, said the school does not accept students with SAT scores below 850 and high school grade-point averages under 2.0.

The top combined score on the test's verbal and math sections is 1600.

Female students in Washington County fared worse on the tests than their male classmates. The average score for female test takers was 976, while the average test score for male test takers was 1025. Overall, about 55 percent of the senior class took the test. The number and percentage of students taking the test both have increased, Michael said.

About 62 percent of all Maryland public high school students take the test, Michael said.

Michael told the board the system has started test-preparation classes to help students do better. English classes have implemented vocabulary studies for students in grades 6 through 12, and high school counselors will meet with students to provide guidance on how to prepare for the tests, he said.

Morgan told the board she believes the scores will eventually catch up to reflect the board's emphasis on increasing the rigor of secondary classes.

"As more and more students from Washington County go down the path of going to four-year schools, or taking (the test) in terms of challenging themselves, I think we'll see a change," Morgan said.

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