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European edition, Friday, September 14, 2007

KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — Defense Department school students posted lower SAT test scores than last year, but still performed better overall than seniors nationwide in the subjects of reading and writing.

But Department of Defense Education Activity students continue to score lower than the national average on the college entrance exam in math, a subject administrators and teachers have focused on improving.

The military’s school system released the exam figures for 2007 late Wednesday.

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

Two bright spots in the SAT results are the performance of minority students and overall participation. A larger percentage of Defense Department schools students took the test compared to seniors across the nation.

Black students scored 30 points higher in reading, 19 points higher in math and 30 points higher in writing than other black students from across the country. Hispanics scored lower than last year but scored 13 points higher on the reading test, 6 points higher on math and 12 points higher on the writing test.

Jim Rodman, a data specialist for Department of Defense Dependents Schools-Europe, said the overall drop in scores is not necessarily a reason for concern, but it warrants some further analysis. He said it’s not unusual to see standardized test scores go up or down slightly from year to year.

“I see little dips and valleys but nothing to this extreme,” Rodman 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 Europe, more than 1,200 students averaged 521 in critical reading, 504 in math and 505 in writing. DODDS-Europe provided a breakdown of school scores in 2007, but refused to release past test scores to avoid comparisons.

Frank O’Gara, spokesman for DODEA headquarters in Arlington, Va., said school-to-school comparisons can create unfair misperceptions if the number of students taking the test at one school is a statistically small sample.

The average tests scores for Defense Department schools across the globe saw lower scores in the three subjects. The average in critical reading was 512, a drop of three points from last year. In math, the scores dropped 11 points compared to 2006. In writing, students scored 495, a seven-point dip from 2006.

School system leaders are trying to figure out the reasons for the lower scores and are reviewing its programs and initiatives, especially in math, according to a DODEA news release.

“This year’s SAT results present us with a challenge and an opportunity,” DODEA director Joe Tafoya said in the release.

“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.”

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