"It doesn't necessarily set a trend," said Brigitte Sarraf, associate superintendent of educational services for the Mountain View-Los Altos Union High School District. She noted that so far this is a one time-drop in scores. "I hope that it is not a trend."
Sarraf said it is too early to say definitively why her district's scores fell on the two voluntary standardized college admissions tests, but added that she and other district officials will be investigating.
Scores fell for both Mountain View and Los Altos high schools in the areas of writing and mathematics on the Scholastic Aptitude Test or SAT. Mountain View did show a one-point improvement in the SAT section on critical reading; Los Altos' students' scores dropped in this category, however.
Similarly, for the ACT (American College Testing), scores fell nearly across the board for both schools. However, in the science category, Mountain View ACT scores did not change from last year.
This year, in the SAT, students from Mountain View High School averaged 584 in critical reading, 587 in writing and 610 in math. Mountain View's 2009 average scores were 583 in critical reading, 589 in writing and 619 in math.
At Los Altos this year, students posted an average SAT score of 574 in critical reading, 591 in writing and 602 in math. Last year those averages were 587, 598 and 620, respectively.
As for the ACT, Mountain View students scored, on average, 25.7 in English, 27 in math, 25.7 in reading and social science, and 24.7 in science. That's compared with 2009's respective averages of 26.8, 28, 26.8 and 24.7.
Los Altos' ACT scores dropped to 25.3 in English, 26 in math, 24.9 in reading and social studies, and 24.5 in science from 26.3, 27, 26 and 25.1 in each respective category.
Both the SAT and the ACT are standardized college admissions tests, Sarraf said. It used to be that taking one or another was merely a matter of geography. Students in coastal states usually took the SAT while those in the middle of the country took the ACT. However, she said, now all colleges accept both. As such, many high school students choose to take both and submit the highest of the two scores.
Since 1993, students in the Mountain View-Los Altos Union High School District have performed better than state and national averages on the SAT — which serves as a yardstick for colleges to evaluate student aptitude across the country when considering applicants. Prior to 2006, the district didn't report its ACT scores, because so few students took the exam. Since then, however, students in the district have scored better than national and state averages in the exam.
Sarraf was happy to see that even as the scores fell, both schools still scored higher than the state and national standards in all test categories.
"The fact that our scores are still significantly higher than state and national scores is certainly comforting," she said. "But we would prefer to see a rise in our own scores, as well."