SAT scores at Marshall High School have been gradually climbing in the last three years.
This year, according to the College Board, Marshall students scored an overall average of 1086 in math and verbal combined, up 46 points from 2000.
Madison High School, Marshall’s cross-town rival, saw its overall score drop by 39 points since 2000, said Madison Principal Mark Merrell.
With Madison down by 39 points overall in three years and Marshall up by 46, the 108-point margin between the two schools in 2000 has dwindled to 23 in 2002.
“THERE ARE A VARIETY of factors” that explain Madison’s 39-point decline, said principal Mark Merrell.
“It's not that we have been asleep at the wheel. We have spent a tremendous amount of energy addressing our SOL scores.”
“I would say one of our major emphases, as far as testing, is to address the SOL scores, which students need to graduate from high school."
Merrell pointed out differences in the two tests: one required by Fairfax County for students to advance, and the other voluntary and optional.
“The Standards of Learning [SOL] is actually what you have accomplished, content-wise,” he said.
“The SAT test is looking at two subjects; a verbal and math score. SOLs test across the board; a variety of core classes.
“If you are talking about SAT [National Scholastic Aptitude Test] scores, let’s also talk about SOL [Virginia Standards of Learning] scores. They have improved dramatically over the three-year period,” said Merrell.
“We are still in the top four or five [high schools in Fairfax County] across the board, with our SOL scores."
Also, said Merrell, “No two classes are the same. Over a three-year period, the classes are different.
“As far as the school is concerned, we will look at strategies to address the verbal and math.
“We are still above the county average," Merrell said.
He said Madison is “Pretty typical of Fairfax County. Over 90 percent go on to some form of higher education,” Merrell said.
AT MARSHALL, about 91 percent of students also seek higher education.
The student body there is international in character, representing 56 different countries of origin and 32 different languages.
About eight percent enroll in English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL).
Just under four percent of students at Madison enroll in ESOL.
“This is wonderful news,” said Karen Forman, director of Student Services at Marshall.
She credited “a school-wide effort towards improving achievement that results in good things such as SATs going up.
“We are an IB [International Baccalaureate] School, and IB puts a lot of emphasis on analytical thinking,” Forman said.
The higher scores “stem from the hard work teachers have done in the classroom, and the emphasis on reading, writing and analytical thinking.”
Marshall teachers also give students practice in SAT questions and analytical questions, Forman said.
“For several years, Marshall has given the PSAT to 9th, 10th, and 11th graders. By the time they take the SAT [as seniors], they know what to expect,” Forman said.