22-Point Drop in SAT Scores for Hispanic Students Prompts Intervention Strategies, Systemwide Score Reaches Highest Level

August 31, 1999
NOTE: The full report and superintendent's memorandum are available for viewing as a 568K Adobe Acrobat PDF file. See link below>

Superintendent Jerry D. Weast has directed that every high school and all central office units associated with school and student performance undertake a significant planning and intervention effort to stem a 22 point drop this past year in the scores for Hispanic students on the Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT).

The efforts will also be directed toward African American students whose average scores have remained largely flat for the past decade.

"My focus will be on creating sustained improvement over time, and I have emphasized that a true measure of educational productivity will not be achieved without incorporating a dependable link between high schools, middle schools, and elementary schools," the superintendent said in a report to the Board of Education.

"Indeed, there is clear evidence from the Department of Educational Accountability that strong academic performance by Grade 3 is closely related to enrollment in honors and advanced placement courses in high schools. I expect that our systemwide plans will emphasize this relationship."

The intervention strategies come as the school system achieved a systemwide average score of 1096 on the SAT, an increase of four points over the previous year's average score and the highest score since 1973 for the Montgomery County Public Schools. This achievement was accomplished with the highest rate of student participation systemwide (79 percent) in 26 years.

At the same time, however, the continuing disparity in student scores by race and ethnicity widened with the 22-point decline by Hispanic students (973). That decline was accompanied by a participation rate of just 45 percent among Hispanic students. Results for African American students increased by three points (922), but the performance returns to the level achieved two years ago. The participation rate was 62 percent among African American students.

The systemwide intervention efforts will seek to emulate the continued improvement in the performance of White students, for which the average score increased last year by 12 points to 1149. The performance of Asian students, although declining this year by three points overall (1131), also is seen as reflecting a significant performance over time and high level of sustained student achievement.

All high school principals were informed of Dr. Weast's directive for intervention plans last week in a meeting with Dr. Steven G. Seleznow, deputy superintendent of schools. Dr. Seleznow instructed executive staff members and the principals to use an extensive array of information provided by the Department of Educational Accountability to identify individual students who have not taken the SAT but who are enrolled in an Algebra 2 or higher mathematics course this year as juniors or seniors.

Information was also provided to schools about SAT preparation classes, instructional materials, assistance for English Language Learners, financial assistance for the SAT fee, and other sources of support.

Part of the school-based plans will involve redirecting "instructionally related activities" time of every high school teacher to this initiative. There are more than 1,900 hours of class time among the high schools available for instructionally related activities that will be directed toward student instruction and support for SAT preparation and performance and student success in Algebra 1.

Extensive outreach efforts also will be undertaken with the Hispanic community to gain greater parent and community involvement and improve student performance. The first meeting was held Friday night, August 27.

Middle schools and elementary schools will be involved intervention strategies also as the plans are extended throughout each cluster.

"The success of individual schools in achieving significantly higher performance by Hispanic students particularly Albert Einstein High School is noteworthy as principals and staff begin reassessing their local school initiatives," said Dr. Weast. The high school achieved an 82-point increase (939) with one of the largest enrollments of Hispanic students in the system.

"I am also well aware that previous efforts have been focused on improving student performance," Dr. Weast said. He noted that over the past three years, individual high schools have continued to implement specialized programs on SAT preparation and skill development that were designed to augment student education in mathematics, English, reading, and test taking. Specialized intervention teams also have targeted before in selected schools to address specific areas of student performance.

"Obviously there is considerably more work to be done," said Dr. Weast.

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