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How Gainesville, Hall students performed on SAT
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Gainesville High students study Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022, during class. - photo by Scott Rogers

SAT scores in the Hall and Gainesville are down compared to last year, but officials see silver linings. 

Hall County Schools’ mean SAT score was down 4% this year, while Gainesville High School saw a 7.5% decline. Hall’s mean score this year was 1,041, compared to 1,086 last year. Gainesville High’s score was 976, compared to 1,055 last year. 

Hall’s mean SAT score of 1,041 trailed the state score of 1,052 but was higher than the national score of 1,028. Gainesville High School’s mean score of 976 lagged both the state and the nation. 

But Gainesville High Principal Jamie Green said the lower scores are mainly due to the fact that they tested more students who don’t typically take the test. 

He sees a “silver lining” in testing more students tend to be underrepresented. 

“We made a very intentional effort to make the test available to students who are typically underserved and underrepresented in the SAT data, both at the local level and the state level,” Green said. “That’s what we're seeing is we're seeing representation of student groups that we haven't seen in our data for a long time.”

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Gainesville High students attend classes Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022. - photo by Scott Rogers

He said more students than ever took the test who would be first-generation college students, and also students whose first language is not English. Students performed well compared to schools of a similar size and with similar demographics, he said, adding that Gainesville students scored at “higher end of that range.” 

He said one-fifth of test takers were the first in their families to graduate high school, and 30% will be first in their families to attend college.

“That's the silver lining in my eyes,” he said. Students that wouldn’t otherwise have taken the SAT will have the opportunity to “attend college and get a degree, to get a high-paying job, are able to lift up their entire family, and then you have a kind of generational shift.” 

Only 49% of test takers this year lived in English-only households, he added. 

Both the Hall and Gainesville school districts have high rates of poverty and a large proportion of students who are English language learners. 

The Hall County School District, for example, has a poverty rate of more than  52%, and the rate in Gainesville City Schools is about 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.

Gainesville High tested many more students. This year, 230 students took the SAT, compared to 138 last year. Hall County’s eight high schools tested 859 students this year, compared to 661 last year. 

“There is good news on the test taker front,” said Kevin Bales, assistant superintendent for Hall County Schools. “We’re bringing our test (taker) numbers back up.” 

He noted, however, that all eight of the district’s high schools recorded lower mean SAT scores. 

He said the mean score for reading and writing was down about 8%, and math was down about 4-5%. 

Pandemic-induced learning loss is still wreaking some havoc, he said, and it will be felt for years to come. 

“I think this is something you're going to see being talked about, not just in Hall County, not just across the state, but across the nation,” he said. “I think we're going to be dealing with it for a few more years.” 

To improve reading scores, Hall County Schools will encourage students to read more, pair younger students with teachers to help them with their reading, and they’re also teaching highschoolers to do more annotating as they read. 

“There's a lot of strategies that we are very granular with in the Hall County School District to help us move forward that I'm very excited about, and I think it's been well received,” Bales said. “Our team members are working extremely hard to make it happen.”

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Gainesville High students Ambar Salazar and Daniel Van Putten read from a laptop Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022, in the school's media center. - photo by Scott Rogers
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Gainesville High senior Jarixy Osorio works on a laptop Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022, in the school's media center. - photo by Scott Rogers
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Senior at Gainesville High Noelia Albarran studies Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022, in the school's media center. - photo by Scott Rogers