Participation in the SAT among black and Latino students in the class of 2010 decreased significantly in MCPS, despite the fact that the county celebrated record-breaking SAT scores among these same groups. However, the participation of blacks and Latinos who took the ACT rose.According to Dryer Thackston, an Instructional Specialist for MCPS's office of High School Instruction and Achievement, only 62.3 percent of black students took the SAT in 2010, compared to 73.9 percent in 2009. Among Latino students participation decreased less, shifting from 57 percent in 2009 to 46.9 percent in 2010. These rates are in contrast with the 1.9 percent decrease in participation among white students throughout the county in 2009 and 2010.
Blair also reported a decrease in SAT minority participation. According to reports released by the MCPS Office of Shared Accountability, SAT participation among black students decreased from 78.8 percent to 76.5 percent between 2009 and 2010. Latino participation decreased from 51.9 percent to 48.5 percent.
Even though MCPS saw a significant decrease in the participation of minority students on the SAT, the rest of the country witnessed a trend indicating the opposite. According to College Board, black and Latino SAT participation across the country increased from 2009 to 2010. From 2009 to 2010 participation in the SAT among black students increased by 5.25 percent. Latino participation rose by 7.5 percent from 2009 to 2010.
Though some county officials may draw attention to a correlation between the lack of participation among minority students and the county's record-breaking SAT scores, Thackston and Dana Tofig, an MCPS spokesperson, however, deny this theory. "I don't believe that [lack of participation] caused the scores. Our scores have been trending up," said Thackston. Montgomery County's SAT scores rose by 38 points, an increase to which Tofig does not credit participation alone. He attributes the raise in scores to the students' increased preparation.
Tofig also attributes this decrease to the fact that minority students are increasingly taking the ACT instead of the SAT. According to Thackston, participation among black students taking the ACT increased by 4.7 percent and participation among Latino students increased by 3.2 percent.
Principal Darryl Williams said that many students may opt for the ACT because of its differing structure. "More students are leaning towards the ACT because there is no penalty for wrong answers, and to take the SAT you need to know the strategies of the test," Williams said.
This specific countywide decline in minority participation may also be attributed to Montgomery College's new Accuplacer test, which is used to place students, said Thackston. About one third of the county's graduates attend Montgomery College. For these students, taking the SAT is not necessary. "In this economy many students plan to go to Montgomery College and then transfer after two years to save money. So if they know they are going to Montgomery College, then why take the SAT?" said Thackston.
Williams is working on a plan to help increase participation in the SAT and ACT among all Blazers. "We are developing a four year plan, starting in ninth grade that will help students know when to take the ACT or SAT," said Williams. "This will include more one on one conversations to help push students to be college ready."
Tofig also said that county-wide efforts to increase SAT participation will take place among all students, not specifically minorities.
Tofig stated that this decrease in minority participation is not cause for concern. "We still have a very high number of students taking college entrance exams, so there really isn't an issue," he said.
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