Montgomery SAT scores dip slightly, show gains for African American students

Scores on the SAT college entrance exam dipped three points for Montgomery County students who graduated in the spring, according to figures released Thursday, but Montgomery’s performance remains well above the state and national averages.

Still, the new scores spotlight a chronic achievement gap in the high-performing public school system.

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Montgomery students from the class of 2013 scored 1,648 overall on the SAT exam, compared with a Maryland average of 1,483 and a national average of 1,498.

But Montgomery’s strong showing masks gaps among different student groups. Many school systems face such achievement gaps, reflected in state and national scores, but the issue has been of particular concern in Montgomery.

The county’s African American students on average scored 1,397 in the new results. Hispanic students scored 1,451. White students scored 1,768. Asian students scored 1,775.

Some gaps among student groups narrowed, but some widened. For example, even as the average score for all Montgomery students dropped three points compared with the previous year, the scores for African American students climbed eight points.

Strikingly, however, scores for Hispanic students plummeted by 32 points.

In an interview, Schools Superintendent Joshua P. Starr said the achievement gap is a strong concern and that school officials would take a close look at what’s behind the sharp decline for Hispanic students. “I always say: At best, the data help you ask better questions,” Starr said.

The SAT is a 2,400-point test, which includes sections on critical reading, math and writing. Each section is worth 800 points. The test, administered by the nonprofit College Board, is often considered a key indicator of college readiness and is closely reviewed by many college admission officers as they make decisions on whom to admit.

In Montgomery, an analysis of the school district showed that economically disadvantaged students took the SAT test in greater numbers this year and that their performance shot up by 22 points, compared with the Class of 2012. Such students earned an overall score of 1,382.

Starr pointed out that the Class of 2013 scores reflect a three-point dip from 2012 but remain 11 points higher overall compared with the Class of 2011. “We’re essentially stagnant from last year and up from 2011,” he said.

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