Long considered a reliable predictor of student success in college, SAT scores released by Harford County Public Schools over the past five years show both good news and troubling trends.
From 2007 through 2011, the average SAT critical reading scores in HCPS rose above the state and national averages, but the county’s math scores hovered near the national average and writing scores were consistently below-par compared to the state and the nation.
Among Harford County high schools, dramatic increases in average SAT scores were seen at Aberdeen and Harford Technical high schools, which select some or all of their populations from county-wide applicants based on academic achievement. The movement of top performing students into these schools may have affected scores elsewhere in the county. Scores at historically struggling schools such as Edgewood and Joppatowne were mostly on a downward trend for the five-year period, with traditionally top-performing schools such as Bel Air, C. Milton Wright and Fallston showing mixed results.
While many factors contribute to changes in average SAT scores, the past five years in Harford County Public Schools were also the first five years of a controversial reform effort known as Comprehensive Secondary School Reform (CSSRP.) CSSRP sought to improve outcomes for all high school students; the reform was to be measured, in part, by SAT results.
Harford County Public Schools
The Good News: SAT Critical Reading
Average critical reading scores over the past five years in both Maryland and in the nation were flat but Harford County Public Schools bucked the trend on the upside. In 2007, the average critical reading score in HCPS was 501, dead even with the national average. But the HCPS average rose over the years to 507, ten points ahead of the national average in 2011.
SAT Mathematics Scores: High for Maryland, About Average for the Nation
Maryland math scores lagged behind the national average by double digits in each of the past five years and both the state and the national averages were flat during that time.
Harford County Public Schools beat the national average by single digits in three of the five years since 2007. After showing steady growth between 2007 and 2010, the scores dropped 10 points in 2011 to 512, two points below the national average.
Never a bright spot for Harford County Public Schools, average writing scores in HCPS have been below the Maryland and national averages in each of the past five years and on a downward trend. Coming in at 488 in 2007, the average HCPS writing score was flat in 2008 and moved lower every year thereafter to end the five year span at 481.
Five Year School-By-School Results: Comparing 2007 to 2011
Below is a school-by-school overview of changes in average SAT scores over five years, determined by comparing 2007 scores to scores in 2011. The overview is followed by a chart showing the average SAT scores at each school in each of the past five years. The chart was provided by Harford County Public Schools in response to a request from The Dagger.
Aberdeen High School
While scoring below the Harford County average in each of the past five years, Aberdeen High School showed a 30-point jump in critical reading from 2007 to 2011, a 40-point jump in math and a 20-point increase in writing. The five year results include students in the Science and Math Academy magnet program operating within Aberdeen High, which accepted its first freshman class in 2004-05. Students in the program are generally college-bound and selected from countywide applicants based on academic record.
Bel Air High School
With scores above the Harford County averages in each of the last five years, Bel Air High School posted the highest scores in the county in all three tested areas in 2011. Comparing 2007 to 2011, the average critical reading score was up 4 points, the math score was down nine points and the writing score dropped 14 points.
C. Milton Wright
Scoring consistently above the county average during the past five years, C. Milton Wright showed a 10-point increase in critical reading from 2007 to 2011, while the average math score was down one point and the writing score was unchanged.
Scoring below the county average in each of the past five years, Edgewood High School’s average score dropped 9 points in critical reading from 2007 to 2011; the average math score was down 27 points and the writing score was down 25 points.
Fallston’s scores were above the county average in each of the past five years. Comparing 2007 to 2011, the average critical reading score was up four points, math was down three points and writing was down five.
Harford Technical School
SAT scores were below the county average in each of the past five years, particularly in writing where the gap exceeded 50 points in 2009. Comparing 2007 to 2011, the average critical reading score was up 40 points, the math score was up 17 points and writing was up 11 points. Generally faced with many more applicants than seats, Harford County’s only magnet high school draws its entire population from students countywide, with admission based on academic record.
Havre de Grace High School
Mainly scoring below the county average over the past five years, the average SAT scores at Havre de Grace dropped from 2007 to 2011, with the average critical reading score down 10 points; the math score down 20 points and the writing score down 22 points.
Joppatowne’s average SAT scores in 2011 were the lowest in the county in all three tested areas. Comparing 2007 to 2011, the average critical reading score was down 20 points; math was down 22 points, and writing was down 33 points.
During the past five years, North Harford’s average SAT scores sometimes dipped below the county average, but stayed mostly ahead by single digits. The five year picture shows a drop of eight points in critical reading, a drop of five points in math and a drop of 20 points in writing.
As in 2010, Patterson Mill’s average SAT scores in 2011 were above the county average in all three tested areas. Five year data is not available because the school opened with ninth and tenth graders in the 2007-08 school year. Compared with 2010, Patterson Mill’s average critical writing score in 2011 was down four points, while the average math score dropped 26 points and writing was down 14 points.