Maryland Students Continue Strong Performance on AP, PSAT, and ACT Assessments; Baseline Scores on Revised SAT Released

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Maryland high school students are performing better than the nation as a whole on a variety of national assessments, continuing a pattern that has held true for more than a decade. With the ACT Program and the College Board releasing results from the 2006 testing of high school seniors, Maryland students again hold their own against their peers nationally. Among the information included in the recent test score data releases:

•           Advanced Placement—Maryland has been a national leader in Advanced Placement (AP) and 2006 was no exception.  A total of 41,711 students took at least one AP exam last year, an 11.7 percent increase.  Students from historically underrepresented minority groups did particularly well.  The number of African American students taking the test increased 16.2 percent, for example, to 4,800, and the number achieving college mastery scores of 3, 4, or 5 increased 17.5 percent to 2,570.  In 2005, Maryland was second only to New York in the percent of students passing AP exams, and the 2006 ranking appeared likely to continue, though official AP rankings will not be released by the College Board until later this year.

•           ACT—The ACT Exam is rapidly growing in popularity across Maryland.  Although the SAT remains the dominant college entrance exam, the number of students in the state taking the ACT has risen from 6,307 in 2002 to 7,558 last year, a 23 percent jump.  ACT also added a voluntary writing segment to its test, but did not change the familiar 36-point scoring scale.  Maryland’s average score of 21.4 was a large increase over last year’s 21.0, and well above the national composite of 21.1, an improvement described by ACT officials as “substantial.”

•           The PSAT—Students continued to do very well on the PSAT in 2006, with Juniors who took the PSAT exams seeing their critical reading scores jump 1.2 points and mathematics scores increase 0.9 points over 2005.  The PSAT is frequently taken in the sophomore and sometimes junior years.  The junior year administration of the PSAT serves as the National Merit Scholar Qualifying Examination.  Juniors in Maryland less often participated in the PSAT in 2006, it is thought largely because of the new longer and more rigorous test design.   

•           The New SAT—Scores in the SAT, which had been on a steady upswing both statewide and nationally for more than a decade appear to establish a new starting point for tracking scores in future years.  The College Board has gone so far as to refer to the exam as the New SAT.  The reconfigured assessment, now four hours long, has been described by Maryland students as “exhausting,” opening with an hour-long writing assessment followed by generally higher level math and critical reading sections.  In Maryland, the statewide increase in SAT test-takers was just 2 percent this year, the smallest in five years.  Fewer juniors are opting to retake the New SAT in their senior year than had done so in recent years.  While students who take a full college preparatory curriculum in high school continue to perform well, those student who are have taken fewer rigorous courses are frequently seeing a drop in scores.  The overall result has been a small decrease in scores in Maryland and in the rest of the nation.

“We intend to treat these scores for the New SAT as a baseline for comparing forward,” said State Superinten

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