From 2010 to 2011, Washington County Public Schools students' average SAT scores decreased in every area except writing.
Still, the school system's average scores were above the state public schools' average.
The average WCPS composite SAT score was 1,488 in 2011, down 10 points from 1,498 in 2010, according to data provided by the school system.
The county's latest average was 16 points higher than the state public schools' average of 1,472 and five points higher than the national average of 1,483 for public schools.
The average composite SAT score for all schools nationwide was 1,500 last school year, and for all schools in Maryland was 1,492.
SAT data was presented to the school board during Tuesday's meeting.
The College Board, which provides SAT tests and keeps track of test results, expanded the pool of test takers included in its statistics. Results from tests taken in May and June are now included, whereas before, data was cut off after the March tests, said Jeremy Jakoby, supervisor of testing and accountability for the school system. For comparison, the College Board recalculated average SAT scores for recent years so the late test takers are included.
Last school year, 815 expected Washington County Public School graduates took the SAT at least once, compared to 737 expected graduates the prior school year, according to presentation data. Expected graduates are mostly seniors but can include graduating juniors, Jakoby said.
"The reality is that as you broaden the pool, the more difficult it is to get students' scores to go up," Assistant Superintendent Donna Hanlin said during an interview Monday. Increasing test participation also broadens the levels of student ability, test readiness and course background of participants, she said.
The goal is for every child who takes the SATs, no matter how large the pool of students, to be successful in achieving higher results, Hanlin said.
School system officials also want to improve SAT results, no matter how large the number of test takers gets, she said.
School system officials are continuing to work to provide students opportunities to prepare for and take college- prep tests such as the SAT, said Clyde Harrell, director for curriculum and instruction.
Since the 2009-10 school year, college preparatory classes have been offered at some county high schools, Harrell said.
The SAT has three components — critical reading, math and writing — that are each scored on a 200- to 800-point scale for a total possible score of 2,400.
The average WCPS writing score improved 4 points from 485 to 489.
The average math score fell 11 points from 515 to 504.
The average reading score dropped 3 points from 498 to 495.
If a student takes the SAT more than once, only the student's latest test score is included in the compiled data.
The other college prep exam is the ACT, which has four parts: English, reading, math and science. A perfect score on each section is 36. The scores on each section are averaged to get a composite score, so the highest overall score also is 36.
Last school year, 144 seniors took the ACT at least once, compared with 138 the prior school year, according to presentation documents.
The average ACT composite score for a WCPS student last school year was 21.2, the same as the previous school year.
The average ACT English score fell from 20.3 to 20.1.
The average ACT math score decreased from 21.9 to 21.7.
The average ACT reading score improved from 20.9 to 21.2.
The average ACT science score also improved, from 21.2 to 21.3.
Editor's note: Due to a reporter’s error, Washington County Public Schools Assistant Superintendent Donna Hanlin was misquoted in this story, which first appeared online on Oct. 4, 2011, and was printed on page A1 of the Oct. 5 print edition of The Herald-Mail.
What Hanlin said was that school system officials’ goal is for every child who takes the SATs, no matter how large the pool of students, to be successful in achieving higher results.
The Herald-Mail apologizes for the mistake.