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Georgia ranks near the bottom in SAT scores
Hall, Gainesville students below state average
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Results are in for the 2008 SAT scores, and Georgia fell one spot to 47th in the nation since last year.

Georgia’s seniors in the class of 2008, including public, private and homeschooled students, had a score of 1,466 out of a possible 2,400 points, earning all seniors in the state a rank of 47 in the nation on the popular college entrance exam, according to a press release issued by the state Department of Education. Georgia public school seniors scored a 1,453 on the SAT this year, earning them the No. 45 slot in the nation.

Locally, Hall County seniors scored 30 points under the state average, and Gainesville High School seniors scored eight points under the state average, according to the state Department of Education. The national SAT average for 2008 is 1,511.

South Carolina, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico trailed behind Georgia, among other states.

Nationally, more than 1.5 million students took the SAT this year setting a new record for the College Board, which administers the SAT.

In a press release issued by the state Department of Education, state schools Superintendent Kathy Cox said the slip highlights the need to implement more rigorous standards in Georgia schools. Yet state SAT results had a bright spot, she said.

Although the state average SAT score for all students was 45 points under the national average, Georgia black and Latino students scored higher than their counterparts nationally. Black students in Georgia had an average combined score of 1,282, which is two points higher than the national average for black students. Latino students in Georgia had an average combined score of 1,423, which was 59 points higher than the national average for Latino students.

Eloise Barron, Hall County Schools assistant superintendent for teaching and learning, said comparing Georgia’s SAT scores directly to other states’ averages doesn’t take into account the vast number of Georgia students that take the SAT, regardless of their academic standing. She pointed out that high-performing states often have fewer students taking the SAT.

According to the College Board, Wyoming only had 311 students take the test this year, while Georgia had 62,287 students take the test. The state average for Wyoming was 1,677 — more than 200 points higher than Georgia.

"Nationwide, with SATs, the high-performing systems have fewer students. They use the cream of the crop ... But we would still be in the middle (nationwide) even if we did that," Barron said.

She said Hall County Schools had been focusing largely on meeting No Child Left Behind requirements, but have refocused efforts toward increasing academic rigor, which already has improved some test scores. In addition, she said Hall County educators are encouraging all students to take the SAT, not just the college bound.

"We’re pushing them to take it. We’re pushing them into the rigor realm," she said of Hall County students, minorities in particular.

Barron said 13 percent more Hall County students took the SAT this year than last.

Georgia continues to have one of the largest black, SAT-taking populations in the nation, with black test takers accounting for nearly a tenth of the African-American test takers in the nation, according to the state Department of Education.

Barron said Hall County schools, as well as schools statewide, may be experiencing the lag between implementation of increased rigor and seeing results.

Cox said it’s clear all Georgia students need a more strenuous mathematics curriculum.

Georgia students tested 22 points under the national average in mathematics — the greatest difference of any of the three parts of the test. In 2000, the test was changed to include a writing portion in addition to a reading and math portion and is now scored on a 2,400-point scale rather than 1,600 points.

Cox said none of Georgia’s 2008 graduating seniors had been taught using the state’s new mathematics curriculum, which is being introduced to ninth-grade students this school year.

"The results of the work we are doing now to provide a rigorous and relevant education for all students may not impact our SAT scores for a few years, yet," Superintendent Cox said. "But it is important that we remain committed to a plan that will provide students with the education they need to be ready for college and the jobs of the 21st century."

Also starting with this year’s ninth-graders, all students will have to take four years of mathematics in order to graduate, not just students on track for college, according to the state department’s press release.

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