Georgia high school graduates performed on par in reading and writing in the latest SAT exams but came in well under the national average in math.
Results the College Board released Tuesday show Georgia’s class of 2017 earned a mean reading and writing score of 535, two points higher than the national average. In math, though, Georgia’s mean score of 515 was 12 points below the national average.
“Math is still an issue that we clearly have to focus on,” said Dana Rickman, researcher with the Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education, a nonprofit, nonpartisan education policy organization.
Rickman noted that blacks and other minorities outperformed the national average but were still behind the overall average. Whites in Georgia scored an average of 569 in reading and writing and 546 in math. Blacks scored 490 and 467 respectively while Hispanics, the third largest group, scored 520 and 503.
School districts around the state touted one aspect or other of their performance relative to the state or national averages. Gwinnett County, the state’s largest district, reported that it beat the national average by a combined 34 points and the state average by 24, with the Gwinnett School of Mathematics, Science and Technology, a typical top scorer no matter the test, leading the bunch.
Experts warn not to read too much into such comparisons because of varying test participation rates.
The Georgia Department of Education reported 61 percent of the graduating class of 2017 took the SAT while 47 percent did so nationally.
Generally, as participation rates rise, it means lower-performing students are added to the average test results. “You would anticipate a smaller percentage of test takers to be higher achievers,” Rickman said.
Another reason for caution: The SAT underwent a major redesign. The class of 2016 had the choice of taking either the old or new versions. Since the old one is not comparable with the new, the results cannot be compared. So the 2017 results set a baseline for the new test for future comparison.
Last year, the College Board reported that a total of 69,922 graduates of Georgia’s class of 2016 took the old and new versions of the SAT. In its latest report, the organization said 63,805 of 2017’s graduates took the new SAT. A spokeswoman added that another 7,066 took only the old version of the test, for a total of 70,871, and an increase of nearly 1,000 test takers.
Meanwhile, participation in the alternative college entrance exam, the ACT, flatlined. Last year, ACT reported its highest participation rate ever in Georgia, with more than 58,000 of the class of 2016 taking that test. It was a more than 20 percent increase from 2012. This year, an ACT spokesman said about 600 fewer members of Georgia’s class of 2017 took the ACT, even though enrollment grew by a couple thousand seniors.
But college testing is still thriving: More than half of each graduating class still takes each test.