(Photo illustration by Ben Bloker / Stars and Stripes)

KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — SAT math scores for last year’s high school seniors in the military’s school system continue to lag behind the national average.

It’s a familiar theme come fall for the Department of Defense Education Activity when the College Board releases SAT results.

But in a year when scores across the nation for the class of 2013 were stagnant, the silver lining for DODEA was its scores weren’t flat, and DODEA students outshone their national peers in the critical reading and writing portions of the SAT.

DODEA students made small gains in math and critical reading to boost their overall combined average score above 2012 results. In reading, DODEA’s mean score was 507 – out of a possible 800 – which is 11 points higher than the national average.. DODEA students made small gains in math and critical reading to boost their overall combined average score above 2012 results.

The SAT is a standardized test weighed in the admissions process by many stateside colleges and universities. The three-hour-45-minute test measures critical thinking skills in math, reading and writing.

Last spring, 2,289 DODEA students took the SAT, a 73 percent participation rate. They combined for an average of 1497, one point below the national average of 1498, but six points higher than the previous year, according to information released Thursday by DODEA.

For at least the sixth consecutive year, DODEA’s average math score of 499 was well below the nation’s average, but DODEA is closing the gap: For the third year in a row, the nation’s average math score was 514, while DODEA’s average math score was four points higher than in 2012.

“We are very pleased that our SAT results are improving,” Adrian Talley, DODEA’s principal deputy director and associate director for education, was quoted in a DODEA news release as saying. “However, we aren’t going to be satisfied with small gains. DODEA will be focusing on achieving, maintaining and sustaining more significant improvements in our SAT results in the coming year.”

Improving math instruction and curriculum has been a particular focus for DODEA in recent years. Last year, the school system expanded its high school math curriculum and began requiring students to complete four math credits in order to graduate.

In announcing SAT results for the class of 2013, the College Board, the sponsor of the SAT, lamented the stagnant results of the nation’s students.

College Board members honed in on an especially grim statistic: Of the 1.66 million students in the class of 2013 who took the SAT, only 43 percent were academically prepared for college-level work, according to this year’s SAT report on College & Career Readiness.

In 2011, the College Board designed a metric called the SAT Benchmark score to measure the college readiness of groups of students. That benchmark is a combined score of 1550.

DODEA says 43 percent of its students — similar to the national result — met that benchmark between 2011 and 2013.

DODEA minority students in most categories scored higher than their national counterparts, according to DODEA. DODEA’s African-American students’ 2013 mean combined score of 1355 was 77 points higher than their national peers’ score of 1278, while DODEA’s Hispanic test-takers were 39 points above their national peers. However, Asian/Pacific Islander students in DODEA scored well below their national peers, 1498 compared with 1645.

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Jennifer reports on the U.S. military from Kaiserslautern, Germany, where she writes about the Air Force, Army and DODEA schools. She’s had previous assignments for Stars and Stripes in Japan, reporting from Yokota and Misawa air bases. Before Stripes, she worked for daily newspapers in Wyoming and Colorado. She’s a graduate of the College of William and Mary in Virginia.

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