Scholastic Aptitude Test scores for Loudoun County high school seniors averaged 11 points lower this year, according to numbers released by the schools last week.

The average combined score for the verbal and mathematics sections of the test fell from 936 in 1989 to 925 this year. But Loudoun's average still was higher than the national and state SAT averages, school officials said.

SAT scores are used by college admissions departments as a factor in deciding which students to accept. For some parents and taxpayers, the tests also serve as a barometer of a school system's performance.

Edgar Hatrick, assistant superintendent in charge of the testing, played down the decline in scores. The important point, he said, is that the district average is above the national average.

Parents should look beyond SAT scores to measure the performance of schools, Hatrick said.

"The SAT is not a measure of an individual school's curriculum," he said. "The public has to remember you can't just measure by one yardstick."

School officials could not explain why the average score dropped, Hatrick said. "I don't really have any significant insights into why they are down from last year," he said. "There have been ups and downs before."

Since 1981, Loudoun scores have ranged from a high average of 943 in 1987 to a low of 916 in 1981, records show. Average scores rose by 19 points in 1985, from 921 to 940.

State education officials appeared more concerned about the decline in scores around the state. James Foudriat, a spokesman for the state Department of Education, said the department intends to look for an explanation.

"It's important because they are broadly used as an indicator of school quality," he said. "We're going to look for some reasons. We never have specifically done that kind of research."

About 625 graduating Loudoun seniors took the test, Hatrick said. On average, the students scored 441 on the verbal portion and 484 on the math portion.

The average verbal score in Virginia was 425 and the average math score was 470, according to test records. Nationwide, students averaged 424 on the verbal portion and 476 on the math portion.

Hatrick said Loudoun schools don't intend to do anything new to offset the lower test scores. Every high school in the county will continue to offer courses to prepare students for the multiple-choice exams, he said. "We'll do the same thing that we've been doing," he said.

..............SAT SCORES...............

COMBINED MATH, VERBAL TESTS

Year ... Loudoun ... State ... National

1990 ....... 925 ..... 895 ........ 900

1989 ....... 936 ..... 902 ........ 903

1988 ....... 932 ..... 902 ........ 904

1987 ....... 943 ..... 907 ........ 906

1986 ....... 937 ..... 908 ........ 906

1985 ....... 940 ..... 908 ........ 906

1984 ....... 921 ..... 894 ........ 897

1983 ....... 939 ..... 890 ........ 893

1982 ....... 938 ..... 888 ........ 893

1981 ....... 916 ..... 885 ........ 890

VERBAL TEST

Year ... Loudoun ... State ... National

1990 ....... 441 ..... 425 ........ 424

1989 ....... 446 ..... 430 ........ 427

1988 ....... 451 ..... 430 ........ 428

1987 ....... 455 ..... 434 ........ 430

1986 ....... 454 ..... 435 ........ 431

1985 ....... 454 ..... 435 ........ 431

1984 ....... 441 ..... 428 ........ 426

1983 ....... 454 ..... 427 ........ 425

1982 ....... 451 ..... 426 ........ 426

1981 ....... 438 ..... 424 ........ 424

MATH TEST

Year ... Loudoun ... State ... National

1990 ....... 484 ..... 470 ........ 476

1989 ....... 490 ..... 472 ........ 476

1988 ....... 481 ..... 472 ........ 476

1987 ....... 488 ..... 473 ........ 476

1986 ....... 483 ..... 473 ........ 475

1985 ....... 486 ..... 473 ........ 475

1984 ....... 480 ..... 466 ........ 471

1983 ....... 485 ..... 463 ........ 468

1982 ....... 487 ..... 462 ........ 467

1981 ....... 478 ..... 461 ........ 466

Source: Loudoun County Public Schools