By Johnny Jackson and Curt Yeomans
Test preparation programs are being highlighted as school officials in Clayton and Henry counties assess drops in the average Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) scores.
Average SAT scores dipped 23 points in Clayton County and 13 points in Henry County.
Overall student SAT averages were better in Henry County, where 1,300 students scored 1408 out of a possible 2400. Clayton County's scores, with 1,460 students tested, were 1268. The national average was 1511.
Georgia's 2008 seniors - including public, private and home-schooled students - had an average score of 1466 on the SAT, for a national rank of 47th. For public school seniors only, the average score was 1453 on the SAT in 2008, for a national rank of 45th.
Henry County Schools Superintendent Michael Surma said his school district is continuing its efforts to prepare for college course work, particularly in the areas of mathematics and science.
"Research has shown that the rigor of high school course work has the greatest impact on students' performance on college entrance tests and readiness," Surma said. "Our instructional staff will continue to encourage students to take more rigorous classes to have them better prepared for all post-secondary educational plans, teaching not only factual information, but reasoning skills and the application of knowledge."
Eagle's Landing High School posted the best scores in the two-county area, with 1520. Four more Henry schools (Union Grove: 1461; Dutchtown: 1429; Stockbridge and Luella:1375) follow. Clayton's highest-scoring school, Jonesboro High, posted an average score of 1354.
Three Henry County schools showed some improvements. Stockbridge High had a two-point gain in its average SAT scores, while Dutchtown and Eagle's Landing both showed 18-point gains in average scores.
Two Clayton County schools, North Clayton and Morrow, showed improvements. North Clayton improved by 19 points and Morrow had a 16-point boost.
Six other schools showed decreases. ranging from 4 points at Jonesboro, to 71 at Mount Zion.
Clayton is still reviewing data by subgroups to see where improvements will need to be made to boost the scores next year, said school spokesman, Charles White.
"We are also going to take a close look at preparation opportunities we offer, to see if what we are doing needs to be revamped in any way," White added.
State officials say they expect the results on the SAT, and all tests, to improve as a more rigorous curriculum is implemented along with new graduation requirements. All students soon must take four years of mathematics and science.
"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," said State Superintendent of Schools Kathy Cox. "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."
Cox said that Georgia can better prepare students for college entrance exams, and raise its average SAT scores, by continuing to focus on improving student achievement in core areas, especially in mathematics.
Statewide, students were 22 points under the national average in mathematics - the largest difference of any of the three parts of the test. Even Georgia students who took higher-level mathematics classes trailed the national average when compared to other advanced-math students.
None of Georgia's 2008 seniors were taught using the state's new mathematics curriculum in the state's new Georgia Performance Standards curriculum. The curriculum is being introduced to ninth-graders and will roll out, one grade at a time, until 2012.
Also beginning this year, all ninth-graders and students in lower grades, will be required to take four years of mathematics in order to graduate.
"Our mathematics scores are like an anchor - they are weighing us down and keeping us from moving up as a state," Cox said. "I know the state's new mathematics curriculum and the graduation rule requirements will better prepare students for the SAT, for post-secondary education and for the world of work."