The average SAT score of black students in Anne Arundel County public schools dipped five points this year, to 886 out of a possible 1600, according to results released by school officials Tuesday.

Last year, the average score of black students in county schools increased 15 points on the national college entrance exam. However, in 2002, the average SAT score of black students in the county dropped 32 points.

Superintendent Eric J. Smith, who has made boosting the performance of African American students a priority of his administration, said that even though the SAT scores of black students over the past few years have been "a bit erratic . . . you do see some generalized growth in verbal and mathematics."

"The real gains have to be achieved through long-term, dedicated work to higher-level course work and more demanding rigor from students," he said.

White students had the highest average SAT score of the racial groups in the county, 1084, a five-point increase over last year. Performance by Asian students, however, declined by 43 points from last year, for a total average score of 1062.

This year, school officials separated the results of students from Spanish-speaking countries into three groups. Twenty-one Puerto Rican students took the SAT and received an average score of 1041, while four Mexican students earned an average of 913. The 25 students from all other Hispanic groups averaged a score of 1076.

SAT scores, along with individual school results, were released last week, but Anne Arundel County school officials were unable to provide a breakdown of performance by minority groups until Tuesday.

The SAT is a standardized test with math and verbal sections. It is administered by the College Board and is used in the application process by colleges across the country. In recent years, the score required for acceptance at many schools, including the University of Maryland, has crept up.

That, in part, has led educators to express concern over the gap in performance between white students and their black and Hispanic counterparts. Nationally, white students averaged a score of 1059 on the exam, while black students earned an average score of 857. Hispanic students, excluding those from Puerto Rico and Mexico, scored an average of 926 points on the test. Asian students earned an average score of 1089 nationally.

As of late Tuesday afternoon, county school officials were not able to provide details of minority students' performance at individual schools.

Jonathan Brice, a school system spokesman, said several schools did not order that information from the College Board. He said the district will not receive the information until October.

"This year, the process just hasn't worked," Brice said. "There was an assumption made that our schools had more information than they actually had."