College Board scores in Maryland and Virginia, which have declined steadily the past five years in line with a national trend levelled off in Maryland and improved slightly in Virginia in 1978.
Scores on the Scholastic Aptitude Test have declined throughout the nation during the 1970s, but according to Sheldon Knorr, Maryland state commissioner of higher education, the decline in scores in his state had been greater than the national decline.
"We were a little bit ahead of the national average in math five years ago and now we're slightly behind," he said. "We've also declined more in the verbal scores."
Virginia's scores have always been slightly lower than the national norm, slightly than the national norm. They remained that way in 1978 but by smaller margins.
The SAT's are taken by high school juniors and seniors and are used by most colleges in the admissions proces. They are graded on a scale ranging from 200 to 800.
In Maryland, the class of 1978 averaged 431 on the verbal part of the examination, the same as in 1977. In Virginia, the class of '78 average 428 on the verbal test, compared with 426 in 1977. The national average in the verbal test was 429.
Maryland students averaged 466 in math in 1978, compared with 470 in 1977. Virginia students scored 462 in 1978, one point higher than they did in 1977. The national average in math was 468.
The test scores also showed that boys have continued to score considerably higher than girls in math and slightly higher in verbal skills, even as the average scores declined.
"Boys traditionally score higher than girls in math mainly because on the average they take an extra year of math in high school that girls don't take," Knorr said. "Why they score higher on the verbal is hard to say."
Nationally, boys score 50 points higher in math than girls (494-444) and eight points higher in verbal ability (433-425). The 1978 Maryland scores show boys outscoring girls on the verbal test 436-425 and the math test 495-441. In Virginia, boys were ahead 430-426 in the verbal exam and 485-41 in math. Viginia girls and boys had the same average verbal score - 426 - in 1977.
In spite of the leveling off of scores in both states, the average SAT scores are considerably lower than six years ago, when statewide reporting began.
In 1973 Maryland student scored 485 in math, five points higher than the national norm and 10 points higher than Virginia.
On the verbal test Maryland students scored 450 in 1973, compared with a national average of 440. Virginia students scored 439.
Thus the average in verbal scores in Virginia has paralleled the national drop of 11 points while Maryland verbal scores have dropped 19 points.
During the same period, math scores in Maryland have also dropped 19 points, compared with only 13 points in Virginia and 12 points nationally.
"The biggest drop we had was between 1974 and 1976," Knorr said. "Our math scores went from 485 to 471 in those two years and the verbal dropped 16 points. Then things have slowly levelled off."
Virginia schools showed a significant drop between 1974 and 1975, according to spokesman Harry Smith, dropping ten points in the verbal test and nine points in the math examination.
"Before and after that the drops were quite small until this year, when we improved slightly," Smith said.
In 1977 a national study panel headed by former secretary of labor Willard Wirtz concluded that the nationwide drop in SAT scores signalled a substantial decline in academic achievement.
The decline was caused by a number of factors, according to the panel, including lower school standards, the impact of television and the increased number of women had blacks taking the test.
Nationally SAT scores declined annually between 1963 and 1977 before levelling off this year, remaining the same in the verbal tests and dropping only two points in math.
"It's nice to see that we've stopped the decline at least for the monent." Knorr said. "But we have to get the scores up again. They should definitely be higher than this."
Knorr added that the report showed one other interesting trend in Maryland: A decline for tha second consecutive year in the numbers of students listing medicine as their first career choice.