Let’s focus on rigor rather than on the SAT

The state saw a drop in its 2009 SAT scores, which will surely become an issue in the governor’s race since this is the third straight year that the much-watched scores did not rise.

I have my doubts that the governor can be credited or blamed for SAT scores, but the candidates always jump on the scores so the annual release become a matter for the governor’s office.

Georgia’s public, private and home-school students scored 1,460 on the SAT, down six points from 2008. (A perfect score is 2,400.) The national average was 1,509, down two points from the previous year. Public school students in the state scored 1,450 on the exam, down three points from 2008. The national average score was 1,493, down two points from the previous year. (Georgia has not historically gotten the boost in scores from its private school performance that other states get.)

(Our data guru Matt Dempsey is pulling out scores. Here is the list of top scoring high schools in the state. Here is his list of top metro performers. Matt is now at work on the comparison chart that some of  you wanted for years past, but he has to hand do it as the SAT used the full names for the schools in its data tis time, meaning that Walton High School shows up as George Walton Comprehensive High School rather than Walton, creating a nightmare for poor Matt. See what he does for you? )

Many people have posted on this topic, including some parents who point to the value of test prep classes. But I think the real issue is tougher courses across the board.

Whenever I asked high school kids if they were challenged, they cite a class here or there. But they often admit that they could have worked harder, that the work was not particularly demanding.

I don’t like the politicization of the SAT, but the public is familiar with the test so it becomes a focal point. And most parents today took the test themselves so it is not as alien to them as the CRCT.

Do I wish Georgia had higher SAT scores? Sure. I think Georgia is still considered an educational backwater by people outside the state and our low scores don’t help.

But I would be happier to see more kids enrolled in AP and more schools taking a  hard look at their course offerings and their level of challenge.

40 comments Add your comment

Maureen's accountability metric

August 25th, 2009
1:47 pm

Maureen does four back to back to back to back blogs on the SAT and now she wants us to “focus on rigor”?

Is this a blog on an improvisational comedy troupe?

I guess it’s better for her that we focus on rigor in the schools, than lack of rigor in her reporting.

ANGLEA BLOODSOE

August 25th, 2009
1:48 pm

Enter your comments here

Maureen's accountability metric

August 25th, 2009
1:49 pm

Oh my. Time for me to eat crow. Maureen did look into a response from Kathy Cox, and posted it on the blog.

Give credit where credit is due. Now where’s that sweet tea? Gotta wash down that crow.

Dunwoody Mom

August 25th, 2009
1:50 pm

Appreciate all the new blogs Maureen. I really am beginning to love this blog. Between DeKalb School Watch and this blog, we cover it all!!!

Jen

August 25th, 2009
1:53 pm

It suuuuuuuure is funny that in the “Top 25″ they were all white schools for the most part. What does that tell you about the good ole thugs?

Elizabeth King

August 25th, 2009
1:54 pm

I couldn’t agree with you more! I actually wrote an SAT prep book called Outsmarting the SAT and the book is primarily a crash course in high school skills with a bit of connoiseurship about the test itself. The way to put SAT tutors out of business is not to get rid of the SAT– it’s simply to intensify the curriculum, critical thinking skills, and fundamentals students learn in school. Kudos!

Chuck

August 25th, 2009
1:59 pm

having served on my local school board for 11 years I have seen many good programs come down the pike; however NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND is not one of them. Quit shackling our states’ great teachers with this govt. crap and let them teach…….. and teach “not to the test”.

Seen it all

August 25th, 2009
2:20 pm

Ok now- five blogs on the SAT in two days.

WHO CARES ABOUT THE SAT!!!!!! WHO???? WHO???? WHO????

Nobody cares. In fact we push TOO MANY students to take the SAT (which is what brings down Georgia’s overall averages) and tell too many students LIES about going to college. Reality is that FEW students actually go to four year colleges. Also most people don’t need to go to college. The whole college thing in this country is a SCAM and a FRAUD. Millions of people go to college for NOTHING. They end up doing work that does not require a college degree, either that or they are working out of the field they went to college for.

What I seldom see on this blog is ideas for reform of the public K-12 system. I see complaints from time to time about what teachers do or do not do or some other grievance about schools, but never any real discussion on improving education.

Joy in Teaching

August 25th, 2009
2:33 pm

This blog should be renamed “Get SAT-ed” instead of “Get Schooled.” Geez. Give it a rest.

mdowney

August 25th, 2009
2:35 pm

Seen it all:
I can’t agree that the focus on college is a fraud. I think it’s a fraud to tell students that they don’t need college-level skills to do even those jobs that once didn’t require a high school degree.
Today, a manufacturing manual can be more difficult to comprehend than a college history text. Here is what Kati Haycock, director of Education Trust, told me: “Young people today who don’t have those skills are not becoming auto mechanics; they are the ones sweeping the shop floor.”

pj

August 25th, 2009
2:38 pm

The skills required to do well on the SAT (and in school) begin at birth, at home, with parenting skills. I mourn for the 2 year old I just saw at the library who’s vocabulary appears to consist, so far, of “Get out my face” and “Shut up,” uttered while her parents ignored her has they looked at funny things on the computer.

mdowney

August 25th, 2009
2:39 pm

And this is what Bill Gates – who has made his fortune foreseeing the future of the global workplace and rushing ahead to provide the tools — said earlier this summer in a speech:
“America is a land of staggering opportunity. But if you want to make the most of this opportunity, high school is not enough, and some postsecondary is no longer enough. If you want to have the skills to build a career, or the resources to raise a family, you need a two-year or four-year degree. You need to complete college.”

DeKalb Conservative

August 25th, 2009
2:48 pm

@ mdowney and @ Senn it all:

Thinking that focusing on college is a fraud is ridiculous. As a byproduct of the self esteem movement to children in the 80’s and 90’s I can attest that the only fraud going on here is standards we expect of children. Case in point, my grandfather attended a boys technical high school in the 1940’s. While at this school he was taking calculus in addition to learning trades. The importance of calculus and English, sadly I am horrible at grammar, are not valued today like they were in the past.

Back in the 1940’s there weren’t that many colleges. Today, there are too many colleges and the requirement for a college degree for so many job exists because the math, science and English capabilities of high school graduates has retarded itself over the years.

The access to college education has never been higher with TV commercials at night targeting the easy way of “going to college in your pajamas.” Students that buy into this are lazy at best and disingenuous to themselves at worst.

Not every student needs the SAT, but every student needs an honest assessment of how their academic talents, education decisions and professional interests with intersect. The SAT isn’t a fraud, the fraud is all people in a child’s network giving them a much higher assessment of what is possible than what is likely.

SteveR

August 25th, 2009
3:25 pm

1. The difference in the GA SAT score from last year is not statistically significant. Just like blaming a school for not gaining in their yearly NCLB goals, there are different populations of students coming through at different times. Bet scores start going up as the illegal and transient students who inundated us in the past decade finish making their way through.
2. To the narrow minded person who noted the “white” schools were in the top schools. It means less about the ethnic makeup and more about parental involvement and the culture allowed to prevail at the school. High Tech High (eight charter schools collectively) in San Diego, CA has 100% of it’s graduates go on to college. And no, they don’t pick from the brighter, well-heeled students in the district. 50% (that’s spelled FIFTY PERCENT) of their students qualify for free lunch!
Only 55 percent of the parents attended college. Yet EVERYONE takes advanced math and science courses.
3. It’s all about attitude and the assumption that most students can achieve far more than they ever thought. If we allow the students to dictate the culture of the schools, an atmosphere of mediocrity sets in. On the other hand, if we have an environment that allows smart to be cool, we can make great strides towards all students having a chance to achieve meaningful goals. Not just a number score on ONE test.

Jay

August 25th, 2009
3:49 pm

I think that the performance of our schools is pitiful. We are the backwater of the country and nothing is being done about it. Some of these principals need to get a fire lit under there bums to focus on results and achievements. Sadly that is how schools are recognized and little is done by the administrations. How often does anyone hear about what a school is doing to promote education?

All I hear every year is that we are focusing on reading or math, but what exactly are the results you are trying to achieve and how can we as parents and your customers rate you on your results if you never set any.

Upset parent in the school zone of the 77th ranked high school. That is the 77th ranked high school of one of the bottom ranked states.

SEAN

August 25th, 2009
3:52 pm

I THINK IT IS UP TO THE PARENTS TO TAKE TIME out of their busy schedules and starting from the 5th grade on up ensure that their kids are taking challenging courses.do not expect the school to keep up with your childs progress thru school.my last year of hign school included physics,calculus,world history(ap),english(ap),electronics,spanish 2 and economics.you have to ensure that at each grade level your child will be offered the top classes.if not they will take the easier courses just to get a better grade and less challenging work.empower yourself,the school conselor should be held accountable but with your input their job can be a lot easier

Common Sense

August 25th, 2009
3:54 pm

The yankees always have to find something negative about the South, weather it’s schools, crime, SATs, poverty, whatever. The South is the best place to live and they know it! The SAT is set up. Let me explain to those who want to know the truth. Up north, only the elite students’ scores are used for the national comparison. Down here, everyone’s scores are used, therefore they might be lower. The SAT is one of the most set up and outdated things in today’s society. A test score does NOT determine what an individual’s character is like! THAT IS A FACT! Who care’s about the SATs anymore? Come up with a more MODERN and FAIR test that treats everyone in the country the SAME!!!!!!!!

Matt

August 25th, 2009
4:00 pm

Really Jen? This is a blog for people who have genuine comments and concerns about education in Georgia. It is not a place to spew racist comments. Either contribute in a thoughtful manner or keep your backwoods simple comments to yourself. And newsflash….. everything isn’t always black and white. I know that was a lot for you to take in, but do your best.

John

August 25th, 2009
4:22 pm

Common Sense, Actually a number of northern states have both a higher percentage of test-takers and much higher average SAT scores than GA does (MA for example). I’m no fan of the SAT either but to say no one cares about SAT scores is laughable. Like it or not, SAT scores are a big determinate of college admissions, certain job screens, as well as home values. Also I agree with Matt that low SATs isn’t necessarily a black or white thing. Many of these high scoring schools actually have significant (though predominately Asian) minority populations that score higher than even the caucasian students; I think high SAT scores in a district actually reflect parental expectations moreso than race.

Homer

August 25th, 2009
4:34 pm

Steve R – You do know that whites have scored about one standard deviation higher than blacks on standardized IQ tests for about the last 100 years don’t you? And asians score higher than whites. It takes quite awhile to change the gene pool.

Homer

August 25th, 2009
4:41 pm

Matt – Read ‘The Bell Curve’ and you’ll get a newsfalsh, there are racial differences whether you like that fact or not. Generational poverty, whether in the inner city or Appalachia, is related to generational stupidity more than anything else. The intellectually better off usually escape.

Easy A

August 25th, 2009
6:55 pm

The SAT is necessary – like it or not. Its so easy to get all A’s in some schools in Georgia, how would colleges measure a students potential!! Lets go back to giving grade school students real standarized tests (ITBS, Stanford, Terra Nova) and get rid of the CRCT. Lets start from 1st grade and beginning measuring our students against the nation and build from there. The CRCT and EOCT’s in Georgia are a joke and promoting low standards.

Gwinnett citizen

August 25th, 2009
7:17 pm

Teachers, you may have noticed that “rigor” is becoming the new edu-speak buzz word. Rigor is a principle we all agree with in theory, but try being a rigorous teacher and see the cans of worms it opens–students just don’t come through, parents complain when their children’s grades start sliding, administrators apply pressure regarding failure rates, and on and on.
Now I’m not talking about AP classes and the like–it is expected that those are rigorous courses in every sense of the word. But when it comes to the “regular” courses that most kids take, rigor is currently not the name of the game–we just want them to pass the standardized tests so our admin. can make AYP.

ScienceTeacher671

August 25th, 2009
9:09 pm

If you try to be rigorous on an EOCT course, it’s kind of hard to explain to parents why their child didn’t do well on your tests, when said student made a 90 on the EOCT….of course, EOCT scores are graded on the curve, so the “90″ was probably really a 64 or 65, which is failing in our system.

Kathy Cox & the DOE say we’re going to lead the nation, and perhaps we will – but not academically, not at this rate.

Matt

August 25th, 2009
10:25 pm

Homer…Homer….. how pitiful… you too want to make this racial? Race is not always the issue. In the case of the SAT, socioeconomic factors play a much bigger role in determining SAT scores than race. Yes, there are schools that combat this; however, there is a certain culture in the school that all kids and parents must buy into. Once again- not racial. Is that easy enough for you to understand?

Matt

August 25th, 2009
10:28 pm

Sorry Homer…. your example proves my point. Thanks!

Veteran teacher, 2

August 25th, 2009
10:55 pm

If you want to get everyone’s attention, teach a rigorous course. You would not believe all the whining you will hear! “You’re too hard.” “I don’t want to think.” “Just tell us what we need to know, and I will memorize it.” “You won’t help anybody on the test (while they are taking it, of course).” “You didn’t tell us everything that was on that test.” It goes on and on. I have been teaching almost 30 years. I know how it is! The fact is, most people want rigor for everyone else’s kids. They want 100’s on everything with no real work required, much less any critical thinking, for their own kids.

I once had a well-placed school official ask me why we can’t teach students enough math in high school for students to do well on the SAT. I replied, we do, mostly by the 8th grade. The level of math required to be successful on the SAT has increased a bit since then, but not by much. The SAT measures analytical thinking skills, NOT achievement. He walked away stunned, and he did not believe me until he personally checked out the College Board web-page to confirm what I told him.

People, the SAT measures analytical thinking skills. Until students challenge themselves with rigorous classes taught by methods that enhance critical thinking, SAT scores will stay the same.

I, for one, am very weary of being criticized for expecting students to rise to a high level of critical analytical thinking to pass and excell in my classes. I conduct class every minute of every day to teach the curriculum and to provide students with the critical thinking skills they need to be successful on the SAT. By the way, I have never had a single student who bought into what I do and gave me their best effort have a low SAT score. And there have been MANY through the years!!!

New Math

August 26th, 2009
8:14 am

Do any teachers really think the new math will increase SAT scores? I think the same problem still exists in many schools. Math 1 or 2 (or any subject) is not taught the same in every school or in every classroom. The standards differ so greatly from school to school and classroom to classroom. Why? This is so unfair to our students.

Veteran teacher, 2

August 26th, 2009
9:26 pm

Yes, the new math will increase SAT scores over time. In many schools last year, 9th graders (the first group with GPS math) outscored 10th and 11th graders on the PSAT. It will be interesting to see what kinds of SAT scores these students get in two years.

New math

August 27th, 2009
8:23 am

Veteran teacher, I hope your right. My son was in the first group of 9th graders last year, but the parents never got to see the results of any PSAT scores comparing 9th, 10th and 11th graders or for that matter the EOCT for Math 1. It is hard to support a program without knowing outcomes. I also think the new math program was poorly implemented in many schools.

New math

August 27th, 2009
8:33 am

Veteran teacher, Just a few more comments. I think if you look at the well performing schools in different states the old, traditional math is working just fine. The problem is Georgia not the math program. We changed a whole system (money, money, money) when we just needed more rigor in some math classes. We could have just stopped passing kids who don’t know their basics. I think we may see an increase in the top performing school and the same problems with the lower performing schools.

New

August 27th, 2009
8:43 am

Oh by the way – we had to get a tutor and teach most of the “new math” to our son because his teachers didn’t know what they doing.

jim d

August 27th, 2009
2:21 pm

poor scores are caused by poor parenting

John

August 27th, 2009
6:56 pm

“Poor scores are caused by poor parenting”

True, many baby boomers had hard-nosed WWII-era parents with strict rules and harsh punishments that they despised, so they go the opposite direction with their own kids and coddle them the way they wish their parents had done with them. Many of these baby boomer parents are successful and have nice households, but remain very hands off with their kids as far as school is concerned. I graduated from high school in 2006 (I made an 1860 on my SAT btw, the equivalent of a 1260 on the old grading scale) and you wouldn’t believe how many kids I knew came from very nice households and were the laziest kids in the world.

John

August 27th, 2009
7:17 pm

However, parents seem to think kids can “coast” as well. My girlfriends little brother (high school class of 2010) just hit bottom rung on his SAT he took over the summer (1400) and there is simply no excuse. Nice household, nice car, hard working parents, lazy as heck kid. Never had a job or anything. Just plays sports and watches TV all day. No aspirations, no desires, but he still think he will have a nice high-paying job like his dad. He’s not worried at all, but neither are his parents! They think he will be “all-right” in the end because back in the 70’s when they graduated form high school you could be “all-right” with a crappy SAT score and just a high school degree. You could be a mechanic or some other nice blue-collar job. My uncle dropped out in the 70’s and became a locksmith. Well this isn’t the 70’s anymore! As someone above said, these kids won’t be the mechanics they will be sweeping the floor of the shop. This is so common, I see it everywhere with my friends families I have grown up with and I wonder how many of you reading this ARE these parents and just have no idea what you’re raising. I’m sure my girlfriends parents don’t think he’s undisciplined, they think he’s just “being a kid” or something like that, but they have raised a burn-out plain and simple. Kids don’t just magically become hard-working, if they are bums at 14,15,16, and 17, they will probably be lazy at 18,19,20, etc. So many kids in my generation are burn-outs, it sickens me. I busted my butt in college and on the LSAT to get into a top-notch law school, but I have seen so many of my peers from good households fall by the wayside. In this economy now is the worst time to slack off, but that is what my generation is all about. Why study when we can “go to the club” or get high (all on daddy and mommy’s money of course), that should be my generations motto.

However, my point of writing on this blog isn’t to mindlessly rant, it is to defend the SAT. Although there is not much of a correlation between first year GPA in college and SAT scores, there is a HUGE statistically significant correlation between SAT scores and future adult income (in my opinion that defines success in most cases). People don’t like the SAT because white males tend to do the best on it year in and year out (even though the SAT is largely organized and written by women even on the math section), but look who is the most successful in society? Who runs most corporations? Who runs politics (For the most part)? I’m not trying to be hateful, just realistic to the relation between the SAT and real-world income later in life. Women who do well follow the same trend, as do minorities. If you do well on the SAT and don’t go to college for financial reasons, studies show you will still make much more money than your fellow high-school classmates who did poorly. In fact, one recent study by Yale indicates that the relation between SAT success and real-world income is so strong it may be the strongest indicator of standardized testing success ever. People don’t like to see people fail on the SAT, but guess what… people fail in life too. Don’t knock the SAT because your kid did poorly on it, just accept that maybe, just maybe, your kid isn’t that bright to begin with. End rant.

John

August 27th, 2009
7:22 pm

By the way, if your kid plays the guitar hero or rock band video games watch out. That is the ultimate indicator of future bum-hood (hope you like my new word). What happaned to real instruments and musicianship. I guess it’s just easier and more gratifying to play a fake instrument. Gotta love my generation (and my generation LOVES Obama).

Reality

August 28th, 2009
8:21 am

Yes, the SAT/ACT is the only way to measure what a student knows – in Georgia. The rigors in classrooms and schools vary so greatly a A/B in one classroom/school is a C/F in another. I’m not sure way UGA places on weight on GPA when its not clear if these classes are for real.

california mama

August 28th, 2009
4:34 pm

john (on august 27): what does president obama have to do with the consistently loe SAT scores for georgians??? NOTHING. in case you haven’t already noticed, your hate will get you nowhere.

Amazed

September 2nd, 2009
10:05 am

My understanding of this comparision is that it is suppose to include private schools as well as public and homeschoolers that took the SAT. If this is truly the case than you left out The Walker School in Cobb county and a few other private schools that had an average of 1750 on the SAT for the school year 2009. Amazed that Georgia never wants to include private schools in true comparisions.

Amazed

September 2nd, 2009
10:17 am

Also, I forgot to include the fact that out of 100 students in the 7th grade at Walker, a private school, about 60% of those students do so well on standardized testing done every year, not CRCT that they take the SAT through Duke tip or John Hopkins. Only about 20 or so from public schools in 7th grade do this and that’s out of roughly 500 students. Do the math for yourselves. My son scored around the same in 7th grade as the average 12th grader in Georgia, which is 1450 out of 2400 as so do many of these students that are taking the test earlier as a 7th grader. This is not unusual for private schooled Georgia students, but unusual for public school Georgia students.