SAT Scores Continue Decline, ACT Scores Increase

by Genevieve Demos Kelley

According to the Maryland Report Card, the 2016 mean composite SAT score for Prince George’s County high schools is ten points lower than it was in 2015, representing the eighth straight year of decline. Since 2008 — the earliest year for which data is available — the mean composite score has dropped by nearly 100 points, from 1282 to 1185. The composite score includes a math, critical reading, and writing component*; the maximum score is 2400. The school system’s mean math subscore was 392 in 2016, compared with 397 the previous year. The mean 2016 critical reading and writing subscores were 403 and 390 respectively, compared with 405 and 393 in 2015.

One possible explanation for the decline is that the number of test takers was slightly higher compared with the year before (6,669 vs. 6,630 in 2015), though the cohort of seniors appears to be smaller, based on Maryland Report Card data.

While SAT scores have been declining since 2008, ACT scores in the county have been inching up. The mean composite score in 2016 was 19, compared with 18 in 2015, and 17, in 2008. (The maximum ACT score is 36.) While the number of PGCPS students taking the ACT has increased significantly (1,183 in 2016 compared with 871 in 2008), it is still much smaller than the number of students taking the SAT. It is interesting to note that an ACT score of 19 puts a test taker at about the 44th percentile, compared with students nationwide, making PGCPS’s ACT performance look respectable, if not impressive. (Looking at PGCPS’s SAT scores in the context of national benchmarks and percentile ranks presents a much bleaker picture.)

The table below shows the average reading, math, and writing subscores and the average composite SAT scores for 2016 college bound seniors in each of the county’s public high schools, as well as the average scores for PGCPS and the state of Maryland. Next to each score, the change from the previous year, 2015, is displayed in either red or green. (For example, at the Academy of Health Sciences, the average reading SAT score was 542 in 2016, eight points higher than it was in 2015.)


Mean SAT scores for college-bound seniors, as reported by the MSDE on the 2016 Maryland Report Card; changes (+/-) from 2015.

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PARCC Testing in a Prince George’s County High School

We’ve been hearing a lot lately about how today’s standardized testing schedules can impact student morale and classroom instruction. However, the problem goes deeper than just the individual student or even classroom. The following is one teacher’s account of how testing works at her local Prince George’s County High School. Individual schools may vary in how they schedule state-mandated exams.

classroomTeaching schedules can affect many more students than just the ones being tested at any given time. Teachers can be assigned to tasks outside the classroom even while their students are not being tested. And because classrooms at the high school level are not necessarily segregated by grade, some students in a given class may be tested while others aren’t. During that time, a teacher has to determine the best way to make sure all her students are being presented with the same material.

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One Local Middle School’s Testing Calendar

A local middle school teacher has created a calendar to demonstrate how her school has scheduled the tests required by Prince George’s County and the state of Maryland into the 2014-2015 academic year. Out of 180 school days, 55 days feature some sort of standardized testing (loosely defined here as mandatory non-teacher-generated tests) scheduled for some subset of students in the school.

The calendar for the entire school year is posted below. Scroll to the end for brief descriptions of mandatory tests.

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