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Students' SAT scores a little higher in 2006

August 30, 2006|by ERIN CUNNINGHAM

WASHINGTON COUNTY - Washington County Public Schools students scored higher on the SAT in 2006 than they did in 2005, but scores were still lower than in 2004, according to data released Tuesday.

The students' average verbal score in 2006 was 491 two points higher than in the previous year, but 14 points lower than in 2004, when verbal scores were at a three-year high. The students' average math score in 2006 was 519 - eight points higher than in 2005, but four points lower than in 2004.

Bob Brown, coordinator of testing and accountability for the school system, said the 2005 scores were uncharacteristic and that scores appear to be on the rise again.

"That got our attention," he said of last year's drop in average scores. "It was not a trend we'd been seeing. Now, you see us moving in some good directions."

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Washington County's average verbal score was 12 points lower than the state average, but the county's average math score was 10 points higher than the state mark, according to the Maryland State Department of Education.

This year was the first that county students took an SAT that included a lengthy writing assessment. About 20 percent of Washington County students who took the SAT did not take one with the writing section because they took the SAT before the change.

The average writing score for county students who took the test was 487, 12 points lower than the state average. The national average for the writing portion of the test was 497, according to the state department.

The county's scores reflect the last scores that Washington County seniors received on the SAT as reported by the Educational Testing Service. Some students take the test several times, spokeswoman Carol Mowen said.

Brown said the students' "best takes" resulted in a higher county average of 496 for verbal and 523 for math.

Washington County graduated 1,300 students in 2006, and 699 of them took the SAT. In 2005, 734 students took the test.

Brown said the 2006 graduating class was smaller than the one in 2005, which is likely the reason fewer students took the college entrance exam.

Slightly more 53 percent of the graduating class of 2006 took the SAT. About 70 percent of graduates statewide took the exam, according to the state department.

"We're exceptionally pleased, especially with the math numbers," Assistant Superintendent for Secondary Instruction Donna Hanlin said. "We're moving in the right direction."

Initiatives that were implemented last year should begin to improve SAT scores soon, Brown said. Last year, schools began test-preparation classes in an effort to help students score higher on the exam. English classes implemented vocabulary studies for students in grades six to 12 and high school counselors met with students to help them prepare for the test.

Hanlin said there is a composition course offered as a high school elective to help students prepare for the essay portion.

"We are encouraging SAT participation by offering a variety of supports to students," she said. "Our high schools are working hard to counsel students to take appropriate college-prep coursework and then to take the SAT when they are prepared."

State and county officials described this year's SAT scores as a baseline for comparing scores in coming years.

"The new SAT is a much different assessment," State Superintendent of Schools Nancy S. Grasmick said in a written release. "It is longer and appears to be far more difficult than the previous exam for many students."

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