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SAT scores drop in Washington County

September 05, 2009|By DAN DEARTH

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- The average SAT scores of all eight public high schools in Washington County dropped during the 2008-09 academic year, according to figures provided by Washington County Public Schools.

Boonsboro High School performed the best, with a drop of just six points from 1,540 in the school year that ended in 2008 to 1,534 in the school year that ended in 2009.

Hancock High School recorded the biggest drop -- 53 points -- from 1,478 in 2008 to 1,425 in 2009.

Clear Spring High School's average score dropped 47 points, and North Hagerstown High School's fell 38 points.

"The results are not at the level I expect," Superintendent Elizabeth Morgan said Friday. "We are going to have a very concerted effort to increase scores."

Morgan said a change of more than 10 points on the SAT is considered significant.

The SAT is a standardized admissions test that is required by many colleges and universities in the United States. It is divided into three 800-point sections that test skills in mathematics, writing and critical reading.

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In those three categories, only three high schools showed improvement.

In math, the average score at Boonsboro increased from 521 in 2008 to 528 in 2009. Averages in reading jumped from 466 to 470 at South Hagerstown High School and from 456 to 462 at Washington County Technical High School.

Donna Hanlin, assistant superintendent of secondary education for Washington County Public Schools, said scores typically go down when the number of test takers goes up.

Hanlin attributed the correlation to the law of averages.

"That tends to be what happens," she said. "Our numbers went up and our scores went down."

More students took the SAT in 2009 than in 2008 at seven of the eight county high schools, according to school system figures. Only Boonsboro had fewer test takers.

Clyde Harrell, director of high school education for Washington County Public Schools, said school administrators will seek ways to improve instruction.

"We want to make sure that principals recognize this," he said. "We want them to do whatever they can to make students more successful."

Hanlin said one possible way to improve SAT scores would be to increase the number of students taking rigorous course work to prepare for the exam.

The average SAT score of Washington County Public Schools seniors who took the test was 1,480 in 2009, according to school system documents. Public schools in Maryland averaged 1,478, and the national average was 1,493.

The 2009 state average of all schools, including public, religiously affiliated and independent, was 1,497. The national average in that category was 1,509.

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