D.C. school system officials are using the recently released SAT scores as further evidence that the city's high schools need an academic upgrade, including more high-level courses and more credit hours.
While D.C. 12th-graders' scores on the college entrance exam rose a combined four points in verbal and math, they still trailed the national average by more than 200 points.
School-by-school scores released by the school system showed students continuing a three-year growth in the combined scores. Verbal scores rose from 412 last year to 414 and math scores climbed from 402 to 404.
Nationally, students scored 508 on the verbal test and 520 on the math test.
"We're certainly happy the scores have gone up, but we've got a long way to go," said Bill Caritj, assistant superintendent for educational accountability and assessment.
"We've got to be more consistent across all of our schools and get more students to do well on the tests," he said.
School Without Walls in Northwest logged the highest average SAT scores among the District's public schools and also exceeded the national average. From 2004 to 2005, its average scores rose 24 points, to 546, on the verbal test and 35 points, to 530, on the math portion.
Banneker Senior High School in Northwest ranked second highest. Banneker, known for its emphasis on high-level courses, also scored above the national average: 540 on the verbal test and 525 on the math test.
With a 507 average on the verbal exam, Wilson Senior High in Northwest scored just one point below the national average. And Wilson's 30-point gain, to 505, on the math test meant the school posted scores above 500 for the first time on both tests, according to Caritj.
Luke Moore Academy, a school that provides a second chance in an alternative academic setting for students 16 to 23 years old, saw big gains in each category. Its verbal score of 356 was 45 points higher than last year, while its math score jumped 88 points, to 372. Moore, however, has a small student body -- enrollment is just over 250 -- so a few relatively high-scoring students can significantly increase the school's average.
Despite the increase, Moore was among 13 senior highs scoring well below the national average. Anacostia Senior High in Southeast scored 327 on verbal (down six points from 2004 and 17 points from 2001) and 327 on math. And Ballou Senior High, also in Southeast, scored 348 in verbal and 341 in math, slightly better than last year.
School Superintendent Clifford B. Janey's academic team is working on a plan to overhaul high schools. All but four of the 16 senior highs in the city were listed as "in need of improvement" last month for failing for at least two years to make adequate yearly progress on the Stanford 9 standardized test. The federal No Child Left Behind law mandates that schools that fail to meet academic benchmarks are subject to intervention from their districts, including the replacement of staff members.
In March, the Board of Education approved Janey's plan to rebuild the physical plants of seven senior highs, including Anacostia, Cardozo, Coolidge and Roosevelt.
Later in the spring, Janey unveiled plans to increase the number of credits required for graduation from 23.5 to 27.5 and to add more high-level courses, including Advanced Placement.
Moreover, he is bringing in "support teams" that include successful principals to work with the schools deemed "in need of improvement."
"While we're trying to support students struggling with algebra and some basic curriculum, we want to provide accelerated courses for our highest achievers who want to go to college," Caritj said. "Dr. Janey's vision is to work on all parts of the spectrum."
The College Board, the New York-based organization that administers the SAT, said a record number of students -- 1.5 million -- took the test this year.
Math scores outpaced verbal scores, officials said, a reflection of the courses students are taking in high school.
"Verbal skills are flat," said Caren Scoropanos, spokeswoman for the College Board. "Students are taking more advanced math courses -- calculus and trigonometry -- while not taking the same number of advanced classes in grammar and writing."
This year, the College Board revised the test. The new exam includes more higher-level math, longer reading passages and no analogies in the verbal section, and a writing component.
Only 2 percent of the students this year took the new exam, Scoropanos said.
This year, 1,496 students in the District took the SAT, down from 1,542 students last year. The drop is attributed to a decrease in the enrollment of high school students, school officials said.