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State reports more SAT participation

By Johnny Jackson

The Georgia Department of Education reported Monday that more of the state's students are taking the SAT than ever before. The percentage of minority students taking the test is also climbing at a significant rate.

With 74 percent of public high school seniors (52,632) taking the SAT, Georgia ranked among the top 10 states in the nation for participation on the 2010 College Board-administered college entrance exam, according to state officials.

State data also revealed that roughly 1,400 high school seniors in Henry County took the SAT in 2010.

"We do have more students taking the SAT than some of the other states, but our numbers are continuing to show some improvements," said Erik Charles, a member of the Henry County Board of Education.

"In the state, and here, just in Henry County, we're doing well, even with so many students taking the test," said Charles, referring to the fact that states with broader participation in the test, tend to have lower average scores than the states in which mostly the academically strongest students take the test, and not the broader population of pupils.

State-wide, more than 44 percent of 2010 college-bound seniors taking the SAT were minority students. That's up from 35 percent in 2005, and 30 percent in 2000. Nearly 38 percent of the state's SAT takers indicated they were first-generation college attendees.

"The overall, increasing diversity of test-takers is an ongoing positive step, and from what we're seeing, a lot of this can be attributed to schools that historically have not seen strong college-attending populations taking a more active role in promoting a college-readiness culture," said Kristen Campbell, executive director of college prep programs at Kaplan Test Prep and Admissions, in a written statement Monday.

Georgia Superintendent of Schools Brad Bryant said he was encouraged by the number of minority and so-called first-generation students in Georgia planning to attend college.

Bryant noted that black students in Georgia outscored their black peers nationally in the content areas of critical reading and writing, while the state's Hispanic students outperformed their counterparts nationwide in critical reading, mathematics, and writing.

"It is good news that our African-American and Hispanic students are doing better than their peers nationally," Bryant said. "But Georgia is a very diverse state, and in order to raise our average SAT score, we must continue to close the achievement gap.

"For Georgia's students to remain competitive against other students across the U.S. and the world," he continued, "we must commit ourselves to preparing all students for the challenges of college and careers."

Georgia high school seniors averaged a score of 1,442 on the SAT (down eight points from the 2008-2009 school year) while the national average score was 1,497 (up four points from the previous year), according to the state's published results.

The results revealed that average SAT composite scores in the Henry County School System ranged from 1,279 at Henry County High and Stockbridge High, to 1,500 at Eagle's Landing High. The scores are based on the combined scores of the SAT's critical reading, mathematics and writing sections -- each worth 800 points, for a possible score of 2,400.

The state report also noted that, while only 79 high school seniors took the SAT at Henry County High, and 74 took the exam at Eagle's Landing High, 184 seniors were tested at Stockbridge High.

Union Grove High, which scored an average 1,491, was reported as having 174 students take the SAT, according to the data. Ola High had 188 test-takers score an average of 1,484.

Dutchtown High and Luella High had the largest contingency of high school seniors participate in the exam, with 241 and 275 participants, respectively. Students scored an average 1,375 on the SAT at Dutchtown High, and an average 1,374 at Luella High.

Patrick Henry High had too few students (three) take the exam for data to be reported. Locust Grove High, which opened for the 2009-10 school year, will graduate its first senior class in 2011. Results for Woodland High were not available at the time of this publication.

In Clayton County Public Schools, despite the majority of schools following the state-wide public school trend of lower average SAT scores, two schools -- Morrow High School and North Clayton High School -- bucked the trend, and posted gains, according to Georgia Department of Education data.

Morrow's average score went up by three points, while North Clayton's went up by 20 points.

On the opposite end of the achievement spectrum, however, Mt. Zion High School's average score plunged by nearly 100 points, according to Georgia Department of Education data.

The state's data show that Lovejoy High School posted the highest average SAT score in the district, with a mark of 1286 (which is down 8 points from the 2008-2009 school year). The data also show that Lovejoy was followed by Jonesboro High School (1283, down 37 points); Forest Park High School (1279, down three points); North Clayton High School (1273, up 20 points); Riverdale High School (1250, down 22 points); Morrow High School (1235, up three points); Mundy's Mill High School (1232, down four points); and Mt. Zion High School (1231, down 98 points).

There were no scores listed for Charles R. Drew High School, as the school, which only had freshman and sophomores last year, reportedly had no test-takers, according to the data provided by the Georgia Department of Education.

Clayton County Public Schools Director of Special Projects Delphia Young, who oversees academic assessments for the district, declined to comment on the scores, according to her secretary.

-- Staff Writer Curt Yeomans contributed to this report