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The average SAT score for students in Arlington Public Schools increased last year, as did participation in SAT and ACT college preparedness testing.

According to data from Arlington Public Schools and SAT and ACT’s test administrators, 77.9 percent of APS grads took at least one of the two tests this year, up from 66.9 percent five years ago. The improvement was even more dramatic among black and Hispanic students, with participation increases of 17.1 and 12.9 percent respectively.

Students with disabilities saw the biggest jump in participation: In 2009, just 30.4 percent of students with disabilities took the tests; last year, 69.9 percent took one or both tests.

Arlington students averaged a combined 1,652 points on the three SAT sections — reading, math and writing — which is a 30-point increase since 2009 and 123 points higher than the statewide average. All racial groups saw increases in their scores, but the achievement gap  has not been closed: white students had an average SAT score of 1,813 in 2014, while black students’ average score was 1,373 and the score for Hispanics was 1,469.

“As we continue to focus on academic planning through our Aspire2Excellence efforts, it is rewarding to see more and more of our students stretching themselves with their academic goals and moving toward future college and career pursuits,” Superintendent Patrick Murphy said in a press release. “I applaud and recognize the commitment of our instructional staff to ensure that students are well-prepared for these important steps, and I appreciate the critical support that is provided by our families and administrators to ensure that all students excel and realize their full potential.”

Thirty percent of on-time APS graduates took the ACT test, with a composite score of 25.2 out of 36, above the state average of 22.3 and the national average of 21.

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aps_logoArlington Public Schools released its 2013 Standards of Learning (SOL) test results in conjunction with the Virginia Department of Education’s (VDOE) release of the statewide results. Although Arlington students performed better than their peers in most categories, they joined students across the state in a significant drop in English reading scores.

Arlington’s Grade 8 English reading pass rate this year is 77 percent, compared with 71 percent for all of Virginia. However, Arlington’s 8th graders scored a 90 percent pass rate last year.

A likely explanation for the local and statewide drop in English scores is the introduction of a more rigorous exam. The VDOE’s website says:

“The English and science SOL tests students took during 2012-2013 were the first to reflect the increased rigor of revised standards adopted in these subject areas by the Board of Education in 2010. Last year also marked the debut of online SOL writing tests, although all schools participated in a statewide field test of the assessments during 2011-2012. As expected, pass rates on the new tests were lower than in 2011-2012 on the now-retired assessments based on the 2002 English SOL and 2003 Science SOL.”

After reviewing the results, Arlington Superintendent Dr. Patrick Murphy said, “As we continue to focus on the goals outlined in our Strategic Plan, these results serve as a barometer for our work and progress at this point. It is clear that our instructional team is working to meet these higher standards to ensure that our students master the new, more challenging expectations. While work remains to ensure that all students are succeeding at all levels, these results are encouraging.”

Last year, similar drops were seen on math scores with the implementation of a more difficult math test. Math scores held relatively steady this year, with 8th graders scoring 67 percent, compared with 68 last year. This year’s 8th graders around the state scored 61 percent.

The full results for all subjects and grade levels in Arlington and in Virginia are available online.

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The SAT scores of Arlington Public School students rose significantly this year, with the biggest gains experienced among minority students. While Arlington students gained, the average SAT scores on a state and national level remained flat.

On a scale from 200 to 800 points, Arlington seniors scored an average of 555 points on the reading portion of the exam, up 14 points from a year prior and 54 points above the national average. Scores on the writing exam were up 17 points to 538, 46 points above the national average. The average of 564 points scored on the math exam was up 16 points from last year and was 48 points above the national average.

Every ethnic group performed better in every category this year. Asian students posted double digit gains in all three categories. Hispanic and Black students posted double digit gains in two categories. White students posted single digit gains in all three categories. There was no significant difference in gains by gender.

“While we monitor many other performance measures, I am pleased to see that our students increasingly outpace their peers across the state and the nation on the SATs,” said Arlington Public Schools superintendent Dr. Pat Murphy. “While state and national averages remain relatively flat, our 2010 seniors experienced double-digit increases in reading, writing and mathematics. I congratulate our students for these impressive results.”

“I am also pleased to see these increases in performance among students of all ethnic and racial groups,” Dr. Murphy continued. “This indicates that students from diverse backgrounds are taking the important steps necessary to prepare themselves for future academic pursuits.”

Arlington’s cumulative average is four points higher than Montgomery County public schools and seven points higher than Fairfax County schools. Scores in Fairfax, the region’s largest school system, were flat compared to last year, according to the Washington Post.

APS students also outperformed their state and national peers on the ACT college entrance exams.

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Arlington Public Schools were among the 40 91 percent of school districts in Virginia that failed to meet the Adequate Yearly Progress objectives set under the No Child Left Behind Act this year. Arlington also failed to meet AYP objectives last year.

This year, 16 Arlington schools met federal AYP targets — down one from last year. The remaining 14 schools failed to meet AYP.

The neighboring Falls Church and Alexandria City school systems also failed to meet AYP. Fairfax County was the only school system in Northern Virginia to get a passing grade.

In announcing the results, the school system cited overall progress in several areas, including reading and math.

“This year’s results include several promising trends in academic achievement,” superintendent Dr. Pat Murphy said in a statement. “Improving student achievement requires tremendous dedication by everyone, and I commend our team of dedicated professionals for their continued commitment and effort to support our students.”

“As we prepare for the 2010–11 school year, we will build changes and improvements in our instructional program,” Dr. Murphy said. “This work begins with analysis of these results to determine what changes and adjustments should be made to ensure that our students attain greater success in the coming year.”

Several AYP benchmarks were made more stringent this year, according to a press release from the Virginia Department of Education.

The results cited by the state are preliminary and may change when the final analysis comes out in September, the school system cautioned.

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