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WCPS' average SAT scores improve by 26 points

September 13, 2010|By JULIE E. GREENE

A year after Washington County Public Schools officials expressed concern about a drop in the average SAT score, the school system's average SAT score improved 26 points.

The average SAT score last school year was 1,506, compared with 1,480 during the 2008-09 school year, and with 1,508 during the 2007-08 school year, according to Jeremy Jakoby, the school system's supervisor of testing and accountability.

"While we are very aware that one year does not constitute a trend, we are optimistic about these results," Schools Superintendent Elizabeth Morgan said in a prepared statement.

The SAT is the most-popular college preparatory exam taken by the school system's students, Jakoby said.

Of last school year's seniors, 713 took the SAT, he said. While that's a drop from the 771 seniors in the class of 2009 who took the test, Jakoby said the percentage of seniors taking the test only dropped slightly. Last year's graduating class was smaller, he said.

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The College Board's report of the number of students who took the test refers to the number of different seniors who took the SAT during their high school careers, said Clyde Harrell, director for curriculum and instruction. Most students take the test when they are juniors and some sophomores take it, he said. Students can retake the SAT, but the College Board only takes into account a student's most-recent score when compiling school system data for the year, Harrell said.

Jakoby said 47 percent of seniors took the SAT last school year, compared with about 50 percent the previous year.

The other college preparatory exam is the ACT, which about 138 members of the class of 2010, or 9 percent, took by the end of their senior year, Jakoby said.

Jakoby said College Board information indicates the written portion of the SAT and a student's high school grade-point average are the two strongest indicators of how successful a student will be in college.

The SAT has three components: critical reading, math and writing. The writing section was added in 2006.

The average critical reading score improved from 490 to 501 last school year, Jakoby said.

The average math score went up from 510 to 518, and the average writing score increased from 480 to 487, he said.

During the 2007-08 school year, the average scores were 500 for reading, 515 for math and 493 for writing.

Each section is scored on a 200- to 800-point scale, according to the College Board's website. A student can score a maximum of 2,400.

A year ago, school system officials said they would work to find the most-suitable ways to increase test scores, including making students perform more SAT-oriented work before taking the test.

Since January 2010, the school system's ninth- through 12th-graders have had access to an online tutorial program called Triumph College Admissions, Jakoby said. Each student has an individual account they can log into at school or at home, he said.

The program takes a diagnostic assessment for each student and uses the results to help them work on skills at which they are weak, Jakoby said.

Last school year and this school year, college preparatory classes were available at five county high schools. Those were Clear Spring, Hancock, North Hagerstown, South Hagerstown and Williamsport, Harrell said. Some students at Barbara Ingram School for the Arts took the course online last year, he said.

School system officials also have encouraged students to take more rigorous courses, according to a WCPS news release.

The average WCPS writing score, 487, was below the state average of 495 and the national average of 492, according to College Board data.

The school system's average math score, 518, was above the state average of 506 and the national average of 516.

The average WCPS reading score, 501, tied the average state and national scores.

County data only included public school students, but state and national data included students taught publicly and privately, Jakoby said.

SAT data by school was not available Monday.

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