By Greg Gelpi
Clayton County SAT scores rank well below the state average, which ranks second from the bottom in the country.
The national average for the standardized test is 1,026. Georgia, which was at the bottom last year, scored an average of 987, inching just ahead of South Carolina's 986. Clayton County students averaged 901.
"While we are pleased that our total scores reflect an increase for the first time in three years, we are fully aware that our overall performance is not where we want it to be," Clayton County schools Superintendent Barbara Pulliam stated in a press release. "We are including these SAT results in our study of student performance data with an ultimate goal of developing initiatives that will better prepare our students for academic success."
The Clayton County school system currently offers two SAT study sessions during the summer. The school system produced an SAT study video and provides Kaplan SAT software.
"By improving academic rigor, by increasing the number of advance placement courses, by ensuring that our students can read for comprehension, we are building a foundation that can lead to a better performance by our students on such tests as the SAT," Pulliam said.
She commended all of the schools, especially Jonesboro High School, the county's only school to beat the state average.
"SAT scores are very important because many colleges use this as part of the criteria for admissions," said Sid Chapman, the president of the Clayton County Education Association, adding "they don't always tell the whole story."
Scores are lower in Clayton County due in part to the exodus of good teachers, Chapman said.
"Without a doubt, we have lost many many excellent teachers to other systems in recent years," he said. "There are a lot of good teachers here now, but I always hear that they are talking about leaving. To maintain them, the teachers must be empowered."
Classroom size must be addressed, Chapman said. High school classes are "jam packed" and the "teacher-student ratio has got to change," he said.
"I think the students can perform," he said. "We just need to create an environment that is conducive to learning."
Despite ranking second to last in the country, the State Department of Education points out that Georgia is improving faster than the nation. In the past 10 years, the state upped its verbal scores by 20 points as compared to the nation's 9-point increase and improved math scores by 19 points versus the nation's 14-point increase.
"This is great news, but we recognize that there's still a lot work to do," State Superintendent of Education Kathy Cox said. "We are already moving ahead with our statewide SAT improvement efforts and I am optimistic that this is an upward trend we can continue."
Since 1994, the state has improved or remained the same each year. The state experienced a 3-point increase this year, while the nation saw no increase.
Clayton College & State University uses the University System minimum SAT requirements for admission. The minimum verbal score is 430 and minimum math score is 400.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.