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Loudoun's SAT Scores on Rise

“Criminology” was the buzzword at Park View High School on Tuesday.

Most of the teachers used or reviewed the word in some way as they gave their lessons that day, said Anne Brooks, school principal.

Bacteriology, cardiology, dermatology and ethnology, which all have to do with the study of science, are the other vocabulary words students are hearing in their classes this week. These words could appear on the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT), giving students a boost when they take the verbal section of the college-entrance exam.

Park View High School students scored 999 on the 2002 SAT, a 12-point gain for the school. The district’s six schools scored 1049, increasing 13 points from the 2001 test and scoring above the state average of 1016 points and the national average of 1020 points.

“I’m very pleased with the results. They are a good reflection on the students who took the test,” said Superintendent Edgar Hatrick. “Each year, we test a different group of students, so we have to realize there will be fluctuation in scores. It’s heartening to see the scores moving up.”

“I’m glad they’re up. It’s about time,” said School Board member Warren Geurin (Sterling). “The increase at Park View is especially welcome, considering in the past several years they’ve been in decline.”

PARK VIEW took a few steps to increase the SAT scores, which are the lowest for the district. The school combined district and school programs to help students prepare for the test’s verbal and mathematics sections. Students at the school have access to SAT practice software in the library and the computer labs. They can take an SAT prep course as a semester-long elective for juniors and seniors, along with after-school SAT courses that other schools in the district offer. Students are required to read for 10 minutes during study hall, which is called the Individual Cooperative Education (ICE) block.

“A lot of the kids go longer than the 10 minutes,” Brooks said.

The school’s reading teachers work with students born outside the United States on reading techniques and with students in academic and honors classes on improving reading speed and comprehension.

“We’re working very hard to get the best scores we can,” Brooks said. “We’re working more intensely on those things than last year, but it’s the same strategies.”

“Our priority and focus on minority student achievement is going to assist that school in improving further,” said School Board member John Andrews (Broad Run).

THE SAT scores at four other high schools showed an increase as did those at Park View. Loudoun Valley, which scored the highest for the district at 1069 points, showed an eight-point drop after four years of rising scores.

The increase in scores can be attributed to several factors, though some variability in scores is expected from year to year, said Sharon Ackerman, assistant superintendent of instruction. “The hope is all these endeavors will work together to improve SAT scores and to encourage more students to take the AP [Advanced Placement] courses,” she said.

Since last year, the district has given the PSAT, the preparatory test for the SAT, to all students in grades 9-11 to provide additional exposure to the test format. The district encourages the students to take the SAT, even if they are not sure about attending college after graduation.

“The more students you encourage to take the test, overall, the lower the scores will be,” Hatrick said. “We think it is an important test for all of our students to try, or as many who want to.”

Seventy-six percent of Loudoun’s graduating seniors took the SAT compared to 68 percent statewide and 46 percent in the nation.

IN ANOTHER effort to improve test scores, the district offers training sessions for instructional staff through partnerships with the College Board, which administers the SAT test. Staff members are taught how to analyze PSAT and SAT scores, so they can adjust the scope and pacing of the curriculum to give students the instruction they need.

“SAT is self-selected. … It would be hard to judge a school system on the SATs because not every student takes them,” Ackerman said. “We recognize it’s one measure people look at of the school system. If the scores go up, it means individual students are making improvements.”

School Board Chairman Joseph Vogric agreed. “It’s great news, but you have to be careful when you solely rely on test scores to make judgments,” said Vogric (Dulles).