Right direction on SATs; Anne Arundel: Five-year climb is encouraging, but gaps remain and there's no time to rest.


THE MORE progress you make, the more you want. Perhaps that's why it is difficult to celebrate advancement. The perpetual nature of progress means that you can't rest on your laurels. As soon as you do, progress slows.

That's why educators in Anne Arundel welcome the county's rising scores on the national SATs, but cautiously. Combined math and verbal scores on the college preparatory exams rose an average of five points among graduates in the 1998-1999 school year over the previous year. The seniors averaged 1,061 out of a possible 1,600 total score.

The results are encouraging, and show momentum. Average scores, in fact, are up 26 points over five years.

Also encouraging are gains by African-American students in the Class of 1999. Their scores also rose by five points. Much work remains, however, since African-American students still score considerably lower than whites.

Overall, Anne Arundel's test results are well above the state and national averages of 1,014 and 1,016 respectively.

Much credit belongs to teachers, who are preparing students for the work that colleges will expect them to have mastered. A child's home life also is an important, if not the most important, factor in scholastic success. (Indeed, the Educational Testing Services, which operates the exam, has begun a separate assessment of scores to take into account household income, parents' education and other indicators to determine whether a student performed better than his socioeconomic status would suggest.) And don't overlook the explosion of private courses helping students become better test-takers.

The result is something to celebrate -- if only momentarily. As the academic year gets under way, schools, families and students must strive to prepare for life after graduation.

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