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The average SAT scores of students in Defense Department schools edged up four points for the Class of 2012, bucking the trend of a declining national average score, which went down this year by two points.
But while students in the Department of Defense Education Activity gained some ground this year, their average score, 1491, still trails the national average, 1498, by seven points. That average includes scores for the three areas of the test: critical reading, math and writing.
The participation rate for DoDEA seniors remains among the highest in the nation, with 2,416 of them — 74 percent — taking the SAT. The national participation rate is 50 percent, or about 1.7 million students.
DoDEA seniors who took the SAT also slightly trail the national average in meeting a new College Board benchmark that measures the likelihood of a student's success in college. Nationwide, 43 percent of SAT test takers scored at least 1550, while 42.1 percent of DoDEA students met that benchmark, said Steve Schrankel, chief of assessment and accountability for DoDEA.
According to the College Board, which administers the SAT, a 1550 score indicates a 65 percent likelihood of achieving at least a B-minus average during the first year at a four-year college.
For DoDEA students, that's a 2-percentage-point increase in those meeting the benchmark over the Class of 2011. The 2011 nationwide percentage was the same: 43 percent.
DoDEA's efforts to improve
DoDEA students' math scores remain 19 points lower than the national average, unchanged from 2011 at 495, compared to the national average, 514.
DoDEA has taken steps to improve students' performance in math, including fielding a new math curriculum last year in all grades and increasing graduation requirements from three years of math to four, starting with this year's class of ninth graders. School officials also will introduce four new math courses designed to strengthen problem-solving and algebraic reasoning skills.
Schrankel said school officials will look at better preparation for the SAT and earlier test taking.
His analysis of the data indicates that scores of students who take the SAT in their junior year are higher than those who take the test in their senior year, Schrankel said. "Students in their junior year are closer to the kind of math being tested on the SAT," he said.
"In their senior year, they're a year away from exposure" to that math, he said.
For example, in the Class of 2012, those who took the SAT when they were juniors scored an average of 511; those who took it as seniors scored an average of 490.
DoDEA students' four-point gain came in the writing score average, which increased to 493. The national writing score average decreased by one point, to 488. Nationwide, students also dropped one point in critical reading, to 496. DoDEA students' critical reading scores remained the same, at 503.
Where DoDEA is ahead
DoDEA's African-American students continue to score higher than their nationwide peers: At 1355, their average score is 82 points higher than their peers' national average, 1273. These scores increased by 40 points from 2011, although with a small group such as the 375 African-Americans in DoDEA who took the test, large fluctuations in scores are not uncommon.
Still, Schrankel said, "Looking consistently over time, again this year we have minority groups outperforming their peers."
DoDEA Hispanic students' total average score, 1422, is 70 points higher than their peers' national average, 1352. That's also an increase of 21 points from the DoDEA 2011 scores.
DoDEA will set up committees at the district level to examine actions to be taken to address SAT concerns and to expand the use of online SAT tools and preparation courses, according to school officials. They will also re-emphasize using SAT data in schools to inform instructional practices, and establish ways to ensure accountability.