MCPS Seniors Set SAT Participation Record

August 28, 2007
MCPS Seniors Set SAT Participation Record; Scores Follow National Trend and Decline

African American and Latino Students Account for 75 Percent of Participation Increase

The Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) Class of 2007 set a new SAT participation record and achieved a combined average score of 1624, which is 113 points higher than the nation’s average score and 126 points higher than the Maryland score.

The MCPS score of 1624 is down 10 points from last year and in line with a drop in the nation’s average score of 7 points and Maryland’s average score of 13 points. The slight decline is consistent with national research that shows that as participation increases, scores often decrease.

“While we know the research tells us that scores go down when participation goes up, a key part of our reform efforts has been to greatly increase access to the SAT for students who historically haven’t taken this college entrance exam,” said Dr. Jerry D. Weast, superintendent of schools. “We’re thrilled that we saw double-digit increases in participation for both African American and Latino students this year. Success on the test will come as more and more students are exposed to our rigorous curriculum.”

The 17-percent and 21-percent increases in the number of African American and Latino students, respectively, comprised more than 75 percent of the 469-student increase in participation. Overall, 79 percent of the Class of 2007 (7,660) students took the SAT.

The MCPS analysis of the exam results yielded three important findings. First, the longer a student studies in MCPS, the better he or she performs on the test. On average, students with only one to three years experience in MCPS scored substantially lower (181 points) on the SAT than those with four or more years in MCPS. The effect is more apparent among African American students than any other group, with African American students here longer than four years scoring 84 points higher than African American students here only one to three years.

The second finding demonstrates that the greater level of participation means more under-prepared students are taking the exam, creating a variation of the complex mathematical effect known as “Simpson’s Paradox.” The paradox occurs when high scores continue to improve or remain strong but no longer offset the comparatively low scores of a larger number of students. The 10-point system decline is not evident in the average scores of any individual group. The average scores increased for Latino students by 8 points and for white students by one point. The scores for African American and Asian American students dropped by three points. The systemwide average score declined by more than three times as much because of the greater number of students with low scores.

The third finding shows that fewer students are retaking the SAT since it was significantly lengthened last year, which could lead to overall lower combined scores for students. Students would often retake the previous version of the test and obtain scores 25 to 30 points higher. They are not subjecting themselves to multiple administrations of the new SAT nearly as often and the result is lower scores.

While the Class of 2007 SAT scores do show a decline, the class overall demonstrated outstanding academic progress. The class had more National Merit Scholars than any previous class and collected more than $90 million in college scholarships. In addition, these students posted excellent results on the ACT, with the largest number of students ever to take that college entrance exam in MCPS history.

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