DOE: Georgia ranks 5th in SAT takers

Minority students outperform counterparts nationwide

The State Board of Education recently announced that Georgia ranks 5th in the nation, in the number of high school students who took the Scholastic Assessment Test, or SAT, this year.

The SAT is a college entrance exam developed to test students in various subject areas, and in the critical-thinking skills deemed necessary for success in college. It has three sections: Critical thinking, Mathematics and Writing, and has a highest possible score of 2,400.

Not only is the state near the top in the overall number of high school seniors taking the exam, but data also shows that the number of minority students in Georgia, who took the test, increased by a percentage point between 2010 and 2011. Last year, 45 percent of the state’s test takers were minority students. This year, 46 percent of them were, according to the latest state data.

“It’s good that we have so many students aspiring to go to college,” said State Superintendent of Schools John Barge. “However, I believe we have to do a better job of educating our students as to what exam is needed to get into the appropriate postsecondary institution.

“When we roll out our career pathways next year, the appropriate postsecondary test needed for enrollment will be clearly outlined for students,” said Barge.

Barge added that more students are taking the SAT than the number of students going to four-year universities. He said many of the postsecondary institutions don’t require the SAT for students to be accepted. Education experts had predicted that scores would decline in states in which more students took it, because broadening the base of test takers tends to increase the number of test takers who are not necessarily top college material.

The latest figures seem to support that conclusion. Data shows that public, private and home-schooled students in Georgia scored an average of 1,445 on the SAT, which is a 6-point decrease from 2010. The national average also decreased 6 points from last year, with a score of 1,500 this year.

In previous statements, Barge said the career pathways program will also benefit students who are taking the Accepted College Entrance Exam (ACT), another test designed to assess students’ general educational development, and ability to complete college-level work.

School officials also argue that a strong core curriculum, and rigorous course work are critical components of college readiness, and that students who complete these two components tend to perform better on the SAT and ACT exams.

According to the State Department of Education’s web site, Georgia high school students, who completed the core curriculum, did better on the SAT than those who did not complete it. The core curriculum includes: 4 years or more of English; and 3 years or more of mathematics, natural science, social science and history.

On another positive note for the state, however, the DOE web site shows that minority students in Georgia’s public schools continue to outperform their counterparts nationwide, on the SAT.

African-American students, according to DOE numbers, scored higher than members of that subgroup around the country on the following subsections of the test: Critical Thinking (2 points higher), and Writing (4 points higher.)

Hispanic students scored 22 points higher in Critical Thinking, 13 points higher in Mathematics, and 17 points higher in Writing than Hispanic students nationwide.

That good news is tempered by the fact that the state’s African-

American-American and Hispanic students continue to score lower than so-called “majority” students, in what is described as an “achievement gap.” The gap is lower, however, for Georgia’s African-American and Hispanic students than it is for the two subgroups nationwide –– 263 points, as compared to 303 points nationally.

“The good news for Georgia,” said Barge, “is that our achievement gap is much smaller than the nation’s.” He added, however, that the bad news is the achievement gap “still has to be closed.”

For more information about state results on the SAT, and to obtain all reports, visit: www.gadoe.org.