More seniors in Montgomery County public schools took the SAT this school year than ever before, posting an average score of 1101 -- outpacing the Maryland state average of 1026 and the national average of 1028.
Students at three Montgomery County high schools -- Whitman, Wootton and Churchill -- posted average scores of 1200 or better. All but two campuses, and all the students at the system's special schools, broke the 1000-point barrier.
Scores for the SAT were released at the end of August, but a mailing glitch delayed the release of the scores in Montgomery County until last Friday. As a result, some systems reported their scores before others.
Among Maryland schools in the Washington region, only Howard County students posted a higher average score -- 1113 -- than Montgomery County. Across the Potomac River, Fairfax students scored an average of 1114.
In all, more than 76.5 percent of Montgomery County public school seniors took the SAT exam, compared with just 50 percent nationwide and 71 percent in Maryland.
In the District, 79 percent of students took the SAT; in Virginia, 73 percent took the exam. (These numbers include students in private schools.)
Montgomery County school officials said they were pleased with the results but said that educators must work more closely with some segments of the student population, such as poor and minority students and those who have limited English skills, to make sure they are getting the instruction they need to reach higher levels of achievement.
"To maintain an average score above 1100 with more than 450 additional students taking the test is a tremendous accomplishment,'' said Jerry D. Weast, superintendent of schools. Last year, Montgomery students had an average score of 1102 on the SAT.
The school system's efforts to increase the number of students prepared for college-level work appear to be paying off, as the number of Hispanic students who took the SAT increased by 147 and the number of black students by 163.
But Weast and others say that while it is good news that more students are taking the test, the school system must find ways to boost the scores of all students.
Black and Hispanic students scored more than 200 points below their white and Asian counterparts. At some campuses, the gap between those groups was even wider, as much as 404 points.
How to close the gap between black and Hispanic students and white and Asian students is a dilemma with which Montgomery has wrestled for years, as have school systems across the country.
In Montgomery, the scores of black students remained relatively steady at 917, the same as the two previous years. Hispanic students scored 942 this year, down two points from 2004 and three points from 2003. But white students gained 11 points over the previous year, raising their average score to 1174, and Asian students improved three points over the previous year to 1163, the highest scores ever for both groups.
While most colleges say there is no minimum score required for admission, students who are admitted to selective universities most often post average scores of 1200 or better.
According to the Harvard Web site, the university's students score between 600 and 800 on each portion of the test. At Yale, the scores hover in the mid-700s. Students admitted to Duke had scores that ranged between 1410 and 1540. At the University of Maryland, students posted numbers in the 1240 to 1380 range.
This is the last year the 1600-point scale will be used. With students now required to write an essay as part of the SAT, scores will be based on a 2400-point scale.
For more school-by-school details on the SAT scores, go to www.montgomeryschoolsmd.org.