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National SAT scores down. Georgia up. Does it mean anything?

Do SAT scores mean anything?

Can we draw anything from the news today national scores are down slightly despite a push for more "rigor" and an increased emphasis on literacy starting in kindergarten?

According to the College Board, the average score for the Class of 2015 was 1490 out of a 2400, a 7 point drop from the prior year. Even more disconcerting, 1490 represents the lowest overall score in a decade.

However, Georgia registered an increase at the same time more students are taking the college admissions test. We still lag the national average, but we are improving.

As the AJC reports this morning:

The mean total score for Georgia students who took the exam during the 2014-15 school year was 1450, five points better than the total score for the 2013-14 school year, according to data released Thursday by the College Board, which administers the SAT. Georgia still lags behind the national score, which was 1490.

State education officials have noted a higher percentage of Georgia students take the SAT than nearly all states, which is why they believe the average score in Georgia is lower than other states. Nearly 77 percent of Georgia students from the high school graduation class of 2015 took the SAT. Only seven states and Washington, D.C. had higher percentages of students who took the SAT.

In its release materials, the College Board emphasized the rise in students taking the test rather than the decline in scores. (The College Board warns against reading too much into what it deems slight fluctuations over time.)

In the class of 2015, 1.7 million students took the SAT, a 1.6 percent jump from the class of 2014. (More students still take the ACT, about 1.9 million.)

But critics cite the new scores as evidence the testing culture is undermining education.

“Test-and-punish policies, such as 'No Child Left Behind' have clearly failed to improve college readiness or narrow racial gaps, as measured by the SAT. Average SAT Scores declined since 2006 for every group except Asian-Americans. The ACT admissions exam and the National Assessment of Education Progress show similar trends,” said Bob Schaeffer, Public Education Director of the National Center for Fair & Open Testing (FairTest).

Interesting to note that Fulton saw its overall mean score drop, while DeKalb saw its rise. However, Fulton has higher test performance than DeKalb.

The 2014-15 mean total score for Fulton was 1558, compared to 1567 in 2013-14. The 2014-15 mean total score for DeKalb was 1332, more than 100 points higher than the 2013-14 score of 1228.

The DeKalb School of the Arts had the highest mean total score in the district, at 1722. The second best score belonged to Chamblee Charter High School, at 1663. Lakeside had the third best mean total score, 1560.

In Fulton, Northview High School had the highest mean total score in the district, at 1784.  The second best score belonged to Alpharetta High School, at 1689. John’s Creek was third with 1678.

The state's highest mean score, 1848, belongs to the Gwinnett School of Math, Science and Technology, typically ranked Georgia's top academic powerhouse. North Gwinnett High had the second-best score in the Gwinnett school district, at 1654. Brookwood High was third in Gwinnett, at 1579.

Walton High School had the highest mean total score in Cobb, at 1748. The second best score in Cobb belonged to Lassiter High School, at 1656. Pope High School was third, with 1647

The lackluster national performance is prompting debate about whether our reform strategy is working and why it seems to stall out in high school. We are making American schools more academic with even kindergartners now doing worksheets.

But are we making schools better and should SAT performance be a measure by which to judge?


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About the Author

Maureen Downey has written editorials and opinion pieces about local, state and federal education policy since the 1990s.