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SAT scores fell in 2007 among students in Department of Defense Education Activity schools, reflecting a downward trend throughout the United States.

Department of Defense Dependents Schools-Pacific and Domestic Dependent Elementary and Secondary Schools-Guam students performed slightly better overall than seniors nationwide in critical reading. However, they scored lower than the national average on the college entrance exam in math and writing, according to exam figures released last week by the military’s school system.

“We witnessed some degree of variability across the nation and throughout DODEA,” said Steven Bloom, deputy director of DODDS-Pacific/DDESS-Guam. “All students in a school, school system or state do not take the SAT, and since the population of test takers is self-selected, using aggregate SAT scores to compare or evaluate teachers, schools, systems, states or other educational units is not valid.

“For example, the math scores are atypical and will take time to study and investigate to determine the underlying reason and better understand this national trend.”

School officials had trumpeted last year’s higher math scores as the product of an intense improvement campaign. But average math scores in both Europe and the Pacific dropped 12 points this year, from 515 to 503. That’s below this year’s national average of 515 and the lowest seniors in these two regions have recorded since 2003.

A larger percentage of DODDS students took the test compared to seniors across the nation, the SAT results showed.

“We are very pleased about the number of our students taking the SAT, because it shows that they are serious about post-secondary education,” Bloom said.

The SAT is an important test for high school seniors who want to get into college. Nearly every college or university in the United States requires it, and more than 2 million people take the exam annually, according to the nonprofit College Board, which administers the test.

In South Korea, Okinawa, Japan and Guam, more than 650 students averaged 504 in critical reading, 502 in math and 485 in writing. As a matter of policy, DODDS-Pacific/DDESS-Guam does not release data pertaining to individuals, schools or districts.

Bloom said the DODEA has a six-year education and career plan that assists parents and students, beginning in grade seven and continuing through their senior year.

“Helping students make the step from high school to a post-secondary school is a priority,” he said. “In middle and high schools, counselors strive to help students understand academic opportunities and choices.”

This year, the average test scores for Defense Department schools worldwide slipped in all three subjects, according to a DODEA news release.

DODEA students posted an average mark of 512 in critical reading, down three points from 2006. The score in math was 501, a drop-off of 11 points from the previous year following an increase of seven points from 2005 to 2006. In writing, they scored 495, a seven-point drop from last year.

In the U.S., the average SAT score in critical reading for 2007 was 502, a one-point decline from 2006, the release stated, citing national SAT results recently unveiled by the College Board. At 515 and 494 respectively, math and writing scores for the nation declined three points each compared to a year ago.

DODEA leaders are reviewing various initiatives and support programs — especially in math — and considering options to halt the decline.

“Our challenge will be to improve test results across the board for next year, and this challenge gives us an opportunity to critically examine our curriculum and teaching methods to ensure students next year and every year have every resource available to them to enhance their performance on the SAT exams,” DODEA director Joe Tafoya said in the release.

Stars and Stripes reporter Scott Schonauer contributed to this story.

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