Local high schoolers are performing better on the SAT, according to scores released last week by the Georgia Department of Education.
Students in Gainesville and Hall County public schools improved their scores over last year and managed to best their nationwide counterparts.
Hall County Superintendent Will Schofield advised restraint in making too much of SAT scores, partly because they only represent a small subset of the student population. Nonetheless, he said it has been a goal of the district for many years to bring scores up to the state average and welcomes any progress on that front.
The improved scores “will bode well for the boys and girls that are graduating from the Hall County School District,” Schofield said, adding that he is “super proud of our kids and super proud of our teachers.”
Outperforming the national average may be especially remarkable for school districts with high poverty rates and large numbers of minority students. The Hall County School District, for example, has a poverty rate of about 50%, and the rate in Gainesville City Schools is 70%. The Gainesville student body is about 60% Hispanic, and nearly one-third of all students are categorized as English learners — the highest of any public school district in the state.
At the board of education meeting on Sept. 20, Gainesville High Principal Jamie Green said his school is “closing the gap nationally,” and he is “very proud” of that fact. He added that “participation was much more closely representative of our demographics” and said the school’s minority students scored higher than their peers nationally. Last year, for the first time, the district’s lone high school gave students the opportunity to take the SAT during regular school hours, and practice sessions were provided before the exam.
“We’re so proud of our students,” said Jeremy Williams, superintendent for Gainesville City Schools. “Last year’s class of 2021 is now attending some of the most prestigious universities in the country, and these SAT results show a small sample of their success.”
Fewer students in both districts actually took the SAT compared to last year, but that decline is consistent with both state and national trends. In Hall County the number of test takers dropped from 1,017 to 661, and at Gainesville High School from 207 to 138.
Despite the lower turnout, Schofield said he is pleasantly surprised by the number of students who did take the test.
“We had a lot of kids that said, ‘There's really no reason to take it this year,’ but I was actually kind of surprised to see the number of kids that did take it,” he said.
Thirty-eight percent of students in Georgia’s class of 2021 took the SAT at some point during high school, according to the DOE, which is “lower than normal, given the impacts of the pandemic.” Across the nation, 1.5 million students took the SAT in 2021, down from 2.2 million in 2020.
For the fourth year in a row, Georgia high schoolers outperformed their peers across the nation, recording a mean score of 1,077 — 39 points higher than the national average for public-school students.
The College Board, which decides how the SAT is designed and administered in the United States, issued the following caveat in its annual report: “Caution is warranted when using scores to compare or evaluate teachers, schools, districts, or states, because of differences in participation and test taker populations.”
“I am extremely proud of these students and these scores are a testament to their hard work, and the hard work of educators in Georgia’s public schools who continue to offer stellar educational opportunities despite the challenges of the last year and a half,” State School Superintendent Richard Woods said.