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Schools' AP, SAT results mixed

The Baltimore Sun

The participation rate among Anne Arundel County public school students on the PSAT and scores on the SAT and AP exams declined slightly in the 2007-2008 school year, though the school system made some gains in participation rates among black students in more advanced course work and college-entry exams, according to school department figures released this week.

The average SAT score declined 12 points during the past three years among seniors, and the percentage of students passing Advanced Placement tests fell 8 percent in the 2007-08 school year from the previous year. However, participation among African-American students rose 16 percent in the SAT and 32 percent for AP classes. Among all students taking AP classes, participation climbed 14 percent.

Taking the PSAT and participating and scoring well on the SAT and AP exams are important indicators for academic readiness and achievement at the college level.

The percentage of students in grades nine through 11 taking the PSAT was 83.5 percent, short of the target of 86 percent and down from 84.3 percent in the 2006-07 school year.

"Exposing more of our kids to the rigor they will encounter in college is very, very important to us," Superintendent Kevin M. Maxwell said at a recent school board meeting.

The results were presented as part of an update on the school system's strategic plan, which aims for parity among students in each of the No Child Left Behind student groups, with the goal of 100 percent participation and achievement by 2012 in most categories.

Among students participating in the school system's International Baccalaureate program, 75 percent of students passed with a score of 4 or higher on a scale of 1 to 7. African-American student enrollment in the program has increased 35 percent from the previous year. The International Baccalaureate program is a rigorous curriculum, similar to Advanced Placement courses, that is recognized around the world.

Among ninth-graders, 33.2 percent of students did not have a grade point average of at least 2.0 or above.

"We have had success, but we also need to be open about the challenges we face," Maxwell said.

School officials have adopted several policies to better facilitate change, including an individual student monitoring system called "Data Dashboard," which allows teachers and administrators to closely follow student achievement, and an emphasis on pushing students to take on more rigorous course loads.

Tim Mennuti, president of the Teachers Association of Anne Arundel County, credited Maxwell and his administration for its transparency.

"The statistics in this report are appalling," Mennuti said, adding later, "With No Child Left Behind, it stripped the veneer off all the things that were done in the past. ... This is the first time with the county that I'm comfortable that we're using real data."

Among the other findings:

Students with limited English proficiency scored 39 percentage points below the whole student population on the reading portion of the Maryland State Assessments and 32 percent below all students in mathematics.

In middle school, students who qualify for free and reduced meals, a federal indicator of poverty, scored 20 points below on the math portion of the MSA.

Also, scores on the MSA among grades three through eight have increased 84 percent in reading and math from last year.

exam success

Percentage of all high school seniors who have completed at least one AP/IB or honors course

Student Groups 07-08 Scores 07-08 Targets

All 72.3 72

African-American 57.5 59

Asian 86 86

Hispanic 67.5 73

Native American 35.3 80

Special Education 18.1 38

English as a Second Language 42 62

FARMS 53.4 58

Percentage of all high school seniors who have passed AP or IB examinations

Student Groups 07-08 Scores 07-08 Targets

All 62.5 69

African-American 37 50

Asian 65.3 73

Hispanic 56.9 64

Native American 60 72

Special Education 38.5 53

English as a Second Language 50 56

FARMS 46.4 55

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