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Clayton schools post SAT improvements

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

High school students in Clayton County's public schools bucked a state and national trend with Scholastic Aptitude Test scores this year.

According to data released by the school system and the Georgia Department of Education on Tuesday, the school system posted a five-point gain on the college admission exam, while state-and national-average scores declined.

A total of 1,118 Clayton County students took the SAT during the 2008-2009 school year. Those students posted an average score of 1,273, which is an increase from the previous year's average of 1,268, said Clayton County Schools Spokesperson Jackie Evans.

Statewide, the average SAT score decreased by six points, to 1,460. Nationwide, the average score was down by two points, to 1,509. A tally of 2,400 points is the highest possible score a student can earn on the SAT.

"We are very pleased that we demonstrated an increase in the overall SAT scores," said Charles White, another spokesman for Clayton County Schools. "However, we realize we still have work to do to catch up with the rest of the state. We're going to continue to make preparation-type courses available to our students, so that they can continue to show improvement on the SAT."

There were five Clayton County high schools that saw their scores, either increase by double digits, or stay the same as last year's.

Four Clayton County high schools saw increases ranging from 26 to 57 points. Scores at the fifth high school were the same as the year before. Only three high schools had declining scores, but none saw a drop of more than 34 points.

Mt. Zion High School led all schools in improvement with a 57-point increase, and a score of 1,329. Other schools posting gains were Forest Park High School with a score of 1,282 (a 56-point increase); Riverdale High School with a score of 1,272 (a 49-point increase), and Lovejoy High School with a score of 1,294 (an increase of 26 points).

North Clayton High School's score was 1,253, which was the same as it was during the 2007-2008 school year.

Jonesboro High School's average score declined by 34 points to 1,320. The other schools, which had lower scores this year, were Morrow High School, with a score of 1,232 (a 34-point decrease) and Mundy's Mill High School, with a score of 1,236 (a decrease of 20 points).

The school-level scores show a shift in where the county's top SAT scores can be found. By just a slim margin of nine points, Mt. Zion's gains lifted its average score above Jonesboro's. Jonesboro had posted the highest SAT scores in the county for at least the last two years. Mt. Zion Acting Principal Angel McCrary could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.

School System Spokesperson Evans said the district posted gains on two of the three sections on the SAT, with the critical reading section score going up by 4 points to 432, and the writing section score also going up by 4 points, to 422. Scores on the math section declined slightly, though, by three points, to 419, Evans said.

Schools Spokesman Charles White said the district implemented two strategies to improve SAT scores during the 2008-2009 school year. He said SAT preparation courses were offered to students as an elective course, and guidance counselors met with parents to discuss ways their children could prepare for college.

Despite the small drop in math scores, White said the district will continue to use the methods it used during the 2008-2009 school year.

Clayton County schools were not alone in seeing a drop in the math scores. The statewide average math score of 491 is a two-point decrease from last year, according to data from the College Board. The data also shows Georgia's average math score trailing the national average by 24 points in the results released on Tuesday.

In the statement, State Superintendent of Schools Kathy Cox said the results did not reflect the Georgia Performance Standards-based curriculum the state has been implementing in secondary education math since it was introduced to sixth-graders in 2005. The new curriculum is being phased in, one school year at a time, and the class of 2012 will be the first graduating class to be fully instructed under it.

"If we are going to improve student achievement, including our SAT scores, then we must be serious about improving math achievement in Georgia," Cox said. "With our new curriculum, we are making sure that all students are getting a strong foundation in mathematics that will prepare them, not only for the SAT, but for the colleges and careers of the 21st Century."