Maryland college-bound seniors exceed national average in SATs

Maryland’s college-bound students managed to maintain high scores in each of the SAT’s categories — critical reading, mathematics and writing — bucking a national trend of sinking scores, according to the College Board’s College-Bound Seniors 2011 SAT report released Wednesday, September 14.

The report reveals that the national average critical reading scores have dropped to an all-time low of 497 out of 800, but Maryland surpassed the national average at 499. Maryland scores in mathematics were slightly lower than the national average at 502, but the state’s writing scores, averaged at 491, were above the national average of 489.

SAT participation grew by 1 percent in Maryland, according to a statement from the Maryland State Department of Education. In 2011, the College Board reported that 47,787 Maryland students took the SAT, up from 46,370 students taking it in 2010.

The Maryland State Department of Education also said in a news release that “the State’s long-running partnership with the College Board has helped increase the number of students in urban and rural communities involved in both the Advanced Placement and SAT programs.”

Not all counties in Maryland received their individual scores, but two counties that did saw improvements.

Anne Arundel County Public Schools said its schools continued to exceed state average scores for the 15th consecutive year. The county also noted in a statement an increase in its SAT participation among its Hispanic and black students.

Montgomery County Public Schools also did not follow the national trend. The county’s 2011 graduates “significantly outscored their peers in the state of Maryland” and the country, the news release said, with an average combined score of 1637 out of 2400, 145 points higher than the state combined score and 137 points higher than the national combined score.

MCPS also saw Hispanic student scores increase, with a combined average score of 1477, compared to the state combined average of 1434. Its black students scored an average of 1382 compared to the state average of 1266.

MCPS Superintendent Joshua P. Starr cautioned against interpretations of race and ethnicity comparisons between the county, state and nation “because results are not available for students identified within the multiple race category in Maryland and the nation.”

Montgomery County is working toward improvement, Starr said in his memo. There is a review being done by the Office of Shared Accountability as to why there was a slight decline in SAT performance. There will also be a focus on whether there were differences in academic achievements in Algebra I and Algebra II between the classes of 2010 and 2011.

Prince George’s County Public Schools have not received their county data, and would not comment on the scores.

The gains among the counties’ Hispanic and African-American students are important, but the College Board’s report reveals an even more significant gain among its non-citizen and immigrant students.

Compared with students who are United States citizens, immigrant and non-citizen students in Maryland scored higher in math with an average score of 551 compared with U.S. citizen students’ average score of 504 out of 800. Immigrant students also scored on average higher in the writing portion of the SAT at 497, compared to U.S. citizen students’ average score of 494.

These scores by immigrant students will be important in their pursuit of a college degree. The Maryland DREAM Act, signed into law by Gov. Martin O’Malley in May 2011 would provide in-state tuition benefits to non-citizen immigrants who meet certain criteria, but opponents are trying to repeal the act through a referendum in 2012.

— Gina Cairney, Capital News Service