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For Immediate Release
Tuesday, September 1, 1998
Contact:Jan O'Keefe Feldman

Commissioner of Education David P. Driscoll Comments on Release of Massachusetts SAT Scores for 1998

Malden - The following is a statement by Commissioner of Education David P. Driscoll on the release of Massachusetts SAT and Advanced Placement test results for 1998:

"The SAT results for 1998 were released today. There is some good news in the results, but it is not good enough.

First, the scores. The Massachusetts SAT I verbal score for public and private high school seniors is 508, a nine-year high, but remains unchanged from 1997. This is 3 points higher than the national average of 505. For Massachusetts males, the average verbal score is 513, up 11 points from 1994, and up 3 points from 1997. The average verbal score for Massachusetts females is 504, up 2 points from 1994, but down 2 points from 1997. For Massachusetts public high school participants, the 1998 verbal score is 502, up one point from 1997.

The 1998 Massachusetts SAT I math score for public and private high schoolers remains the same as last year at 508, higher than at any time in the past ten years, but 4 points below the 1998 national average of 512. For Massachusetts males, the math score is 526, up 8 points from 1994, and at a ten-year high. The average math score for Massachusetts females is 492, up 1 point over last year, and up 15 points from 1991, also at a ten-year high. For Massachusetts public high school test-takers, the math score is 502, unchanged from 1997.

For the 1998 SAT II Subject Tests, the Writing score for the state's public and private high school test-takers is 580, up 4 points over last year, and 11 points higher than the current national average of 569. The Massachusetts SAT II Math score is 573, up 3 points from 1997. Ten-year highs are reported for Massachusetts scores in the following tests: American History, Literature, Physics, Latin, French and Spanish.

Second, the issue of participation. This year, 47,325 Massachusetts public and private high school graduates took the SAT I or the SAT II. The 1998 statewide participation rate for the SAT I is 77%, compared to 43% nationally. In recent years, the Massachusetts rate of participation has been far greater than in the nation. Further, 26% of Massachusetts graduates took at least one subject test on the 1998 SAT II, more than 3 times the national rate of 8%. The fact that so many Massachusetts students are choosing to take the tests, or are being encouraged by their parents or teachers to take them, means that expectations are high for Massachusetts high school students. Typically, in other states, only the students with high grade point averages who expect to do well decide to take the SAT's and seek to go on to higher education. Here, in Massachusetts, fully four-fifths of our students have their expectations set high such that they choose to sit down and try the SAT exam year after year.

Third, the AP results. I am very encouraged that more Massachusetts public high school students are taking the Advanced Placement Tests every year. This is an indication that students, teachers and parents have high expectations that students can do well on a rigorous test of academic achievement. Students who expect they'll do poorly rarely take these tests.

In 1998, 12,277 public high school students in the Commonwealth took one or more AP tests. This represents a 7.4% increase in AP participation over last year, and an increase of 46.3% since 1994. Massachusetts public high school students are taking more AP exams, as well. This year, they took 19,403 AP exams, which is 9.5% more exams than they took in 1997, and 54.1% more exams than in 1994.

Additionally, Massachusetts public high school students are scoring higher on the AP test and outperforming their national peers. AP grades are reported at five levels, with Levels 3, 4, and 5 as the highest. In Massachusetts, 70% of the exams showed scores in the top Levels 3, 4 and 5, while in the US, 62.6% of exams showed scores at these top levels. In 1998, 18.7% of Massachusetts exams of public high school students showed scores in the highest AP Level 5, compared to 13.5% nationwide.

Like many other indicators, including the Iowa third-grade reading test and the National Assessment of Educational Progress, the SAT results show that our students consistently do very well in standardized testing and place us among the top states in the nation.

However, the measure of our student success, in our view, is in the new, customized and rigorous state student test, the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System, MCAS, which is far tougher than other measures of student success because the standards of our test are higher. We are setting high standards because our students must compete not only nationally, but must be among the best in the world."

For 1998 local SAT results, contact local school districts. For 1997 district scores, see the School District Profiles at the Massachusetts Department of Education website at

Last Updated: September 1, 1998
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