Alex Jaffurs

Alex Jaffurs, public schools’ assessment and accountability officer

SAT participation in Maryland is on the rise, and that includes St. Mary’s public schools. The county had the highest participation rate in the tri-county area thanks to a new policy of paying for the tests for all juniors.

“We did have approximately a 30% increase in SAT participation from the year before,” Alex Jaffurs, the school system’s assessment and accountability officer, said in an email, specifically, a 30.4% increase, he added.

St. Mary’s Class of 2019 had an overall participation rate of 86.4%. That number was at 51.6% for the Class of 2018. Jaffurs said it increased because the school system paid for 11th-graders to take the test at school.

The school system plans to spend $40,787.50 to give the SAT to the county’s 1,255 juniors in public school next March, Jaffurs said.

“It’s the second year that we’ve done that,” he said.

The goal was to make sure underrepresented students have access to the assessment, Jaffurs said. He added that the College Board, which creates the tests, reported underrepresented students can become college and career ready if they take the test.

And, Jaffurs said he’s seen that improvement among St. Mary’s African American students and students with disabilities.

PSATs are now given to ninth-graders as another way of reaching the underrepresented student population.

“Regarding our school day SAT participation, our 11th-grade increased from 87.7% [during the 2017-2018 school year] to 91.9% of our total 11th-graders” during the 2018-2019 school year, Jaffurs said.

Jaffurs said during the 2017-2018 school year, 1,050 St. Mary’s students took the SAT. That number rose to 1,369 last school year, about 300 more students.

The Class of 2019 had an average composite score of 1030 in St. Mary’s. The average score for evidence based reading and writing was 516 and the average score for math was 514.

Charles County’s overall composite score was also 1030 last school year. The average scores for math and evidence-based reading and writing were 509 and 520.

In Calvert County, seniors from the class of 2019 averaged a composite of 1115 with 65% of participation this year, according to a press release from Calvert County school officials.

Like in St. Mary’s, Calvert public schools’ Superintendent Daniel Curry said Calvert “is joining several other districts in Maryland and paying for all juniors to take the SAT” next year in March, as the school system recognizes that “taking the SAT opens doors” and wants to “further support” its students.

“We hope to ease the financial burden on families and help our juniors — whether or not they currently plan to attend college — across this milestone,” Curry said, “as they make decisions about the future.”

Charles County test-takers had a 1.4% participation increase, rising from 48% in 2018 to 49.4% for the Class of 2019.

“Every little increase that we have is great, but I don’t think that it’s necessarily directed to one piece or another,” Cliff Eichel, Charles County’s accountability director, told The Enterprise during a phone interview on Friday. “We had 1,000 students last year and 988 in 2019. When you have numbers that big, that’s statistically insignificant.”

Maryland’s department of education reports 3,000 more public school students in the Class of 2019 took the exam compared to the Class of 2018, resulting in 77% of test-takers among the Class of 2019 — a 5% rise statewide compared to last year.

Staff writer Johnathon Clinkscales contributed to this report.

Twitter: @KristenEntNews

Twitter: @KristenEntNews