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Clayton students gear up for SAT tests

By Trina Trice

Clayton County students scored below the national and state average on the SAT last year, causing many school administrators and parents alarm.

One of the reasons given to explain the ousting of former Superintendent Dan Colwell was students' poor performance on major tests, such as the SAT and the Criterion Referenced Competency Test.

Some parents and business leaders have said a county is measured not only by the quality of its government and municipal development, but also by students' academic performance.

It isn't surprising then, that many of the county's teens are spending part of the summer taking SAT preparatory classes wherever they can find them.

When Ronnel Finley, a rising high school senior, took the practice SAT, or PSAT, he scored just below 1,000.

Finley, along with a dozen other high school students, enrolled in the SAT Academy, a program sponsored by Riverdale High School.

"I believe I can do better," he said. "I had the chance to come, so I figured I'd take it.

"I want to go to a good college. If that's what I've got to do to go, then that's what I'll do."

Each year approximately a million of the country's high school students who are planning to go to college take the SAT.

Many colleges and universities require prospective freshmen to submit SAT scores that used in the admission process. Nearly 80 percent of four-year colleges and universities use test scores in admissions decisions.

A perfect score on the test is 1600 n 600 on the verbal and math portions.

A student needs to make at least combined score of 1,000 to get into a college, according to Robert Lipsitz, SAT Academy program coordinator and third year student at the Georgia Institute of Technology.

Getting assistance from a tutor or taking special classes is just part of performing well on the SAT, Lipsitz said. "It depends on where you start out. It's about being motivated to do well and having someone to work with them. But students need to already have the skills to perform well on the test," he said.

The design of the SAT Academy program involves teaching students test-taking skills and strategies.

That's the same approach taken by "Dr. Test," also known as Dr. Gary Cohen.

"I offer one-on-one tutoring which works better for most people because individuals are so different," he said. "Most people are not test wise. I get so many smart students, but they don't realize how to approach the test. You can usually eliminate two to three answers before doing the math (on the math portion of the SAT)."

Finley said he feels confident about what he's learned so far.

"These tests are like games," he said. "You just have to figure out how to play the game. Once you figure it out, you can get a good score on the test."