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Principals Pleased With High School SAT Scores

Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) SAT scores for seniors in the class of 2004 were released last week, and the principals of all three local high schools were pleased with their students' performances.

"We're very happy," said Westfield High Principal Mike Campbell. "Looking at the scores, we've gone up every year and made slow, gradual, steady progress. And that's what our goal is — to improve every year."

ACCORDING TO figures compiled by the College Board, which administers the SAT, FCPS students amassed an average combined score of 1105. Students here scored much higher on the mathematics section than students nationwide and throughout Virginia with an average score of 558. The same was true on the verbal section, with Fairfax County students racking up an average score of 547.

"Fairfax County Public Schools students continue to perform well on the SATs," said new Superintendent Jack D. Dale. "Any time you post the highest scores in your school system's history, as FCPS did in 2003, you set the bar higher for the students who follow."

He said the slight drop in math scores from the previous year was consistent with student performance nationally and statewide. Said Dale: "Our students maintained their verbal score level and still outperformed their counterparts in Virginia and across the country."

Of the three high schools here, Chantilly garnered the highest point total, scoring 532 on the verbal and 550 on the math for 1,082 points overall. In 2001, 2002 and 2003, it scored 529, 532 and 539 points, verbal, and 541, 544 and 561 points, math.

Westfield earned 1,069 points total — 528, verbal, and 541, math. It's 2002 and 2003 scores were 512 and 526, verbal, and 526 and 540, math. Centreville's 1,065 total was comprised of 518 points on the verbal and 547 points on the math. Its 2001, 2002 and 2003 scores were 530, 519 and 522, verbal, and 539, 546 and 551, math.

This time, Westfield students increased two points on the verbal portion from 2003 and one point on the math. Campbell attributed it to a continuation of the programs the school already has in place. "And we're also closing the achievement gap of minority students — exceeding the Virginia and national averages, in this respect," he said.

Campbell said it's critical to do so because "the demographics in Fairfax County are changing rapidly. In the next three years, the minority will be the majority, so we need to close that gap even more if we want our scores to continue to grow."

CHANTILLY HIGH Principal Tammy Turner noted that the SAT scores of 19 of the county's 24 high schools were lower than last year's, "so it's a bigger picture, countywide and nationally." At her school, she said, teachers and administrators will go back and look at how those 2004 seniors answered the questions, see what problems they had and figure out what can be done to improve things.

"But I'm still satisfied with our scores," said Turner. "We're above the national average, and we're proud of our kids. One blip does not a trend make. Our kids are achieving at a very high rate."

Although Centreville High Principal Peter Noonan is new to the school this year, he said he and the other administrators there were "excited to see the data. Our students did very well — above the state and national averages."

This school year, he said, they're looking forward to the new SAT test. "It's changed significantly," said Noonan. "Because of a new writing component, the perfect score will change from 1,600 to 2,400." Therefore, he said, much of Centreville's focus this year will be on "the writing process and writing across the curriculum."