WASHINGTON – Maryland’s 1998 SAT scores ranked 34th among states and remained below the national average for the fourth year in a row, according to data released by the College Board.
The average cumulative score for Maryland students on the Scholastic Aptitude Test was 1,014 out of a possible 1,600, compared to a national average of 1,017 in 1998.
But state education officials said it is not fair to compare Maryland to other states, where far fewer graduating high school seniors take the test.
“When we look at states with a high participation, Maryland comes out ahead,” said Mark Moody, an assistant superintendent for the Maryland State Department of Education.
While 65 percent of Maryland’s graduating students took the exam, many of the highly ranked states have low participation among graduating seniors. None of the top five had more than 9 percent of their graduating students take the exam.
But Maryland ranks seventh out of the 21 states with 50 percent or more of their graduating seniors taking the test. Among those states, Maryland’s cumulative score trailed Oregon, which had an average score of 1,056; Washington with 1,050; New Hampshire with 1,043; Alaska with 1,041; Connecticut with 1,019; and Massachusetts with 1,016.
“Clearly the SAT is not a school and school-system quality indicator, not all students participate,” said Moody. “What is more important than the actual score is participation.”
The SAT is made up of two parts, math and verbal, each with a maximum possible score of 800 points. The average math score in Maryland was 508, up one point from last year, and the average verbal was 506, down one point.
Also the state’s score included both public and private schools. For public school students, the average was 505 for math and 499 for verbal, said Moody.
Officials with the College Board said there are other reasons, besides participation rates, that make it inappropriate to rank states against each other based on their average SAT scores.
Those factors include a school’s demographics and socioeconomic factors, said Janice Gams, a spokeswoman for the College Board.
Maryland has two performance-evaluation testing programs aimed at measuring a school’s performance: the Maryland Functional Tests, which evaluate math, reading, writing and citizenship, and the Maryland School Performance Assessment Program.
“In 1989-90, we adopted a school performance program that took measures of school performance,” Moody said. “Our belief is schools, not students are responsible for student achievement.”
“We are just starting a high school program with more rigorous exams for high school students,” Moody said.
The tests will cover English, math (algebra and geometry), government, and biology.
The Scholastic Aptitude Test is the main standardized test used in college and university admissions in the East. About 35,800 Maryland students took the exam in 1998 and, nationally, 1.2 million took the SAT.