Wednesday, August 30, 2006

SAT scores are sinking in Massachusetts

Nicole Martinez:

Lynn Classical High School Vice Principal Gene Constantino said his school is following a current trend in the state after its drop in SAT scores.

Statistics released Tuesday show the average reading and math SAT scores of Massachusetts students has dropped for the first time in 14 years.

The average reading score was 513, down from 520 in 2005. In math, the average score was 524, down from 527.

Although Classical's math scores have actually risen by three points, verbal scores dropped by four.

"I believe it is because the emphasis in curriculum has changed," Constantino said. "More emphasis has been put on preparing students for the MCAS than the SATs."

But Constantino said the school is working toward getting students the help they need."There are courses being offered at North Shore Community College (after school)," he said. "And teachers have been willing to help students electronically."

Although Lynn Classical's verbal scores have dropped slightly since last year from 455 to 451, their math scores rose from a 453 to 456.

Lynn English has scores of 444 for math and 437 for reading, while Lynn Tech scores are 388 for math and 384 for reading.

Massachusetts still scored above the national average of 503 in reading and 518 in math, which dropped five points and two points, respectively, from last year's national averages.

Lynn English principal Andrew Fila said computerized SAT prep courses are offered at his school.

College Board officials said fatigue might have been a factor because of a new writing test that added 45 minutes to the exam.

The board also said that some students who took the SAT in 2005 might have chosen not to take it again to avoid the longer test.

Constantino, however, said he does not feel the extra 45 minutes has made any difference with Classical students.

"Most colleges haven't even looked at those scores yet," he said.

Massachusetts scored 510 on the new writing exam, above the national average of 497.

"While any drop in performance is unsettling, without a multiyear drop in our numbers it is impossible to tell if this is the start of a downward trend, or merely a blip we will make up next year," State Education Commissioner David Driscoll said. "Regardless, this is something we will watch closely over the coming school year."

The state still showed an achievement gap among races, with white and Asian students scoring better than black and Hispanic students in all three tests.

Whites scored highest in the reading test, with 524, compared to 506 for Asians, 444 for Hispanics and 430 for blacks.

Asians scored an average of 577 on the math test, compared to 534 for whites, 447 for Hispanics and 430 for blacks.

On the writing test, whites scored 525, Asians scored 508, Hispanics scored 437 and blacks scored 426.

Black students dropped one point in reading and three in math, compared to last year. Hispanics gained three points in reading and dropped two in math.

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