Howard County Times
Howard County

Report: Howard SAT, ACT scores are ‘strong’ but performance gaps remain

Despite the Class of 2019’s “strong overall scores” on the SAT and ACT college entrance exams, classmate participation and performance gaps persisted among student groups in Howard County schools, according to a report presented Thursday night.

The mean SAT score for the Class of 2019 was 1202 out of a possible 1600, a slight decrease from an average score of 1206 in 2018. For the ACT, the 2019 average score was 25.6 out of a perfect score of 36, a decrease of 0.2 from the Class of 2018.


Of Howard’s 2019 graduates, 82% of students took the SAT and/or the ACT. About 76% of students who took at least one of the exams met or exceeded state criteria for both college and career ready performance in English and mathematics.

Participation and performance gaps were found among black, Latinx, English learners, special education students and those enrolled in the school system’s free and reduced-price meals program.


School system staff Ebony Langford-Brown, executive director of curriculum, instruction and assessment, and Eva Yiu, the coordinator of research and program evaluation, presented the Class of 2019 results during Thursday’s Board of Education meeting.

After the presentation, school board members had the opportunity to ask questions and express their opinions and concerns about college entrance exams.

School board member Vicky Cutroneo said: “I question why we continue to use the SAT score as a measure of [a student’s] ability to be successful in college. I don’t know when the SAT became so ingrained in our schools because it is a college entrance exam. It is not a graduation requirement.”

Member Jennifer Mallo expressed the need to focus on preparing students for careers.

“I do think we need to focus on career readiness and we need to emphasize to our students and to our families and our community that, in addition to this measure, we need to be measuring what career readiness looks like because there are so many pathways to success that don’t include college and we need to celebrate that.”

Mallo added that the presented data shows achievement gaps that are “significant.”

The following shows the percent of groups of students who took the SAT or ACT:

  • Asian: 93.8%
  • Black/African American: 73.3%
  • Hispanic/Latinx: 58.5%
  • Two or more races: 81.6%
  • White: 87.5%
  • FARMs: 60.2%
  • Special education: 35%
  • English learners: 28.1%

Of the students who took the exams, these percents show who met or exceeded the state criteria:

  • Asian: 89.8%
  • Black/African American: 46.5%
  • Hispanic/Latinx: 58.1%
  • Two or more races: 77%
  • White: 84.9%
  • FARMs: 43.7%
  • Special education: 29.2%
  • English learners: 12%

The highest performance gap by race/ethnicity was a 43.3 percentage-point gap between Asian and black students; for students who receive FARMs versus those that did not the gap was 36.7 percentage points.

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For general education and special education students, the performance gap was 47.8 percentage points. Between non-English learners and English learners, there was a 64.4 percentage-point gap.

To help close the gaps, the school system has support and strategies in place, including school counselors recommending books, resources and computer programs to students as they prepare for the SAT and ACT.

Teachers receive professional development to support them in helping their students through increased student writing performance, connecting reading materials to content-specific subject matters and offering financial support for test fees.

An after-school SAT preparation program is available for students in select high schools, through funding from the Black Student Achievement Program.

Half-semester SAT preparation classes are available during school hours in all 12 county high schools.


Since 2017, Howard schools have administered the PSAT to all freshmen to expose them to standardized college exams earlier. All sophomores and juniors also take the PSAT.

PSAT results produce information about Advanced Placement potential to identify students for rigorous courses and provide appropriate interventions and enrichment programs, according to the school system.