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For Immediate Release
Tuesday, August 29, 2000
Contact:Darrell S. Pressley, 781-338-3126

Massachusetts SAT and AP Scores on the Rise

Malden - Massachusetts has the highest total SAT score of all states with large percentages of students taking the exam, and Massachusetts vaulted over six states to be number 1 in the country in the percentage of students with high scores on the Advanced Placement exams.

Commissioner of Education David P. Driscoll announced today that the state's 2000 SAT exams show that Massachusetts' combined math and verbal scores are up eight points since 1998.

Over a two-year period, the Massachusetts SAT I scores show a three-point increase on the verbal test, from 508 in 1998, to 511 in 1999 and again 511 this year (tying a 10-year high), and a five-point increase in math, from 508 in 1998, to 511 in 1999, to 513 (also a 10-year high) this year. Of special note, the average math scores for girls rose five-points from last year's 493 to 498 this year, a 10-year high, and rose two points in verbal over last year, to 509.

On the Advanced Placement tests, Massachusetts has the highest percentage of students with the top grades of 3 or above among all major states. Massachusetts moved ahead of six states and the District of Columbia to reach the top this year, with74.1 percent of scores at or above a grade of 3. AP grades are reported at five levels, with Level 5 the highest. (While North Dakota's percentage is 74.5 percent, fewer than 700 students took the AP exams, compared to 21,000 students in Massachusetts.) Also noteworthy, AP scores improved for black students in 2000, with a 14.3 percent increase in the number of grades 3 to 5 over the previous year.

There are four states (Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey and New York) and the District of Columbia where 3/4 or more of students take the SAT I. Other than the District of Columbia, only Connecticut (81%) and New Jersey (81%) exceed the Massachusetts percentage (78%). Nationally, 44 percent of students take the SAT I.

"With high percentages of students taking the test in Massachusetts, a greater cross-section of student scores comprise the state average. In other words, while in some states only the cream-of-the-crop are tested, here, many more kids take the SAT. This is something we strongly encourage and are proud of, because it shows that a great percentage of our students have high expectations of going on to college," Commissioner Driscoll said.

The Massachusetts total math and verbal score on the SAT I this year is 1024, while the national average is 1019. Commissioner Driscoll said, "For our scores to be five points above the national average is noteworthy, given the larger percentage and much broader range of students in Massachusetts who take the SAT test."

Commissioner Driscoll added, "While this is very encouraging news, there is certainly room for improvement. Students are taking the SAT test very seriously because it is a tool they need to get into college. We are anticipating that starting next year, students will take the MCAS just as seriously in order to earn their high school diploma."

In addition to the well-known SAT I and AP tests, the College Board, which released all 2000 data today, also reported on the SAT II scores. The SAT II is a subject-matter test and is offered in dozens of areas. There was encouraging SAT II news for Massachusetts as well, especially in the areas of writing and mathematics.

The 2000 state average for SAT-II Writing was 607, up five points from the 1999 average; the 2000 state average for math Level IC was 586, up nine points from the average recorded in 1999. Each of these was the highest average ever recorded in the state for these relatively new tests.

The SAT II Writing Test differs from the other subject tests in that it measures skills developed over many years. These skills are gained through experience with language, especially written language.

Finally, statewide math and verbal scores on the PSAT for college-bound juniors reached a 10-year high in 1999, improving to a 49.2 average for high school juniors who took the test last year. The writing score improved to 50.1 average.

Massachusetts Board of Education Chairman James A. Peyser said, "It is a pleasure to have some good education news to talk about. I hope this will be the beginning of a continuous stream of good news that includes improving MCAS and NAEP performance.

Our schools are getting better. Student achievement is improving. These SAT & AP results are early indicators that progress is a reality. Although it is always dangerous to read too much into any single set of data, I believe these positive results reinforce the imperative that we stay the course in establishing higher academic standards through the curriculum frameworks and MCAS."

Peyser added, "In addition, we should not become complacent with our success. Yes, our scores are up in Massachusetts, but so are scores across New England and the rest of the country. Yes, our students are doing better than average, but is that good enough for our increasingly demanding economy? Yes, college-bound students in Massachusetts seem to have brighter prospects, but what about those who do not plan to attend college?"

"Our public education system is undergoing great change, and we are beginning to glimpse the improvements this change can produce. I am gratified by the College Board report, but at the same time I recognize these results as a challenge to do better," Peyser said.

For more information on the SAT, AP, and PSAT scores, visit the Department of Education website.

Last Updated: August 29, 2000
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