State SAT scores down, but so are scores nationwide

The state saw a drop in its 2009 SAT scores, which will surely become an issue in the governor’s race. (See story here.)

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 had 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 Matt’s list of top metro performers.

Here is a question: With all the effort on the SAT in Georgia, including free prep classes, why haven’t we moved ahead? Why are we losing ground? Is the best prescription for higher SAT scores a more rigorous curriculum, day in and day out, rather than prep classes as stated by some posting parents.

This is from DOE: Minority students in Georgia public schools continue to outperform African-American and Hispanic students across the country on the SAT.  But, the College Board’s 2009 SAT report also shows that Georgia must remain committed to closing the achievement gap and preparing all students for the 21st century.

“It is good news that our African-American and Hispanic students are doing better than their peers nationally,” said State Superintendent of Schools Kathy Cox. “But Georgia is a very diverse state and if we are serious about raising our SAT scores, we must be fully committed to closing the achievement gap.”

The 2009 SAT report clearly shows that African-American and Hispanic students in Georgia’s public schools are outperforming those subgroups nationally:

-  African-American students in Georgia public schools scored 1,274, which was 10 points higher than the national average for African-American public school students (1,264).

-   Hispanic public school students in Georgia scored a 1,412, which was 66 points higher than the national average (1,346).

The difference between the scores of African-American and white public school students – called “the achievement gap” – is 274 points in Georgia, which is 34 points smaller than the achievement gap nationwide (308).

The gap between the scores of Hispanic and white public school students in Georgia is 136 points, 90 points lower than the nation (226). However, Superintendent Cox pointed out that Georgia has very high minority participation on the SAT and the achievement gap impacts our overall SAT scores more than most other states.

“We certainly should be pleased that our achievement gap is smaller than the nationуs, but we should not be satisfied with 274 and 136 point gaps,”  Superintendent Cox said. “As a state, we have made progress on many state and national tests, such as the ACT and the National Assessment of Educational Progress. But clearly we must maintain – and expand – our commitment to providing all students a world-class education.”

Superintendent Cox said a lot of work is already being done.

For instance, the state has been pushing to increase the number of students who are taking Advanced Placement (AP) classes and the 2009 data shows that it is working. The number of students taking AP classes jumped more than 11 percent, overall. The biggest increase in enrollment was among African-American students (+16.2%) and Hispanic students (+19.3 percent). This is important because students who take even one year of AP classes in any subject will score higher on the SAT.

“Our school districts have been working to engage more of our minority students in rigorous classes,” Superintendent Cox said. “But I want us to come together and agree to redouble our efforts to close the achievement gap in Georgia once and for all. I am confident that working hand-in-hand we can make it happen.”

Superintendent Cox pointed out that, overall, Georgia trails the national average on the mathematics portion of the SAT by 24 points, which far more than the state is trailing in reading (11 points) and writing (14 points).

“If we are going to improve student achievement, including our SAT scores, then we must be serious about improving math achievement in Georgia,” Superintendent Cox said. “With our new curriculum, we are making sure that all students are getting a strong foundation in mathematics that will prepare them not only for the SAT, but for the colleges and careers of the 21st century.”

The 2009 SAT Report to the Nation reflects the scores of last year’s senior class. None of those students were taught using the state’s new math curriculum, the Georgia Performance Standards (GPS). Implementation of the math GPS began with sixth-graders in 2005 and has been phased in one grade per year.

Students in the class of 2012 will be the first graduating class to have been fully instructed in GPS mathematics during secondary school. Georgia remains one of 24 “high participation” states, where more than 40 percent of the students take the SAT.

In Georgia, 71 percent of all students took the SAT, much higher than the national participation rate of 46 percent. While overall SAT participation in Georgia went up slightly this year, participation in Georgia public schools dropped more than eight percent.

Meanwhile, the number of public school students taking the ACT increased over 11 percent in 2009. The state continues to offer all high school students to the College Boardуs Official SAT Online Course. In 2008, students who used the course scored 48 points higher than those who did not.

“If you have a high school student, get them enrolled in this course today and make sure they start using it,” Superintendent Cox said. “This is an incredibly valuable tool that has a big impact on SAT performance.”

What do you think? We are looking at the scores more closely and I will update this as we do.

39 comments Add your comment


August 25th, 2009
11:32 am

Interesting, it appears that while scores are down overall, they are up for some of the most affluent school districts in the metro area (Walton, Northview, etc.). USA Today had an article on how the average scores for students with parents making over $200,000 a year went up 23 points (to 1703 I believe). From what I’m seeing, this pattern seems to be holding in metro Atlanta as well.

Katy Johnston

August 25th, 2009
11:33 am

Not all scores have gone down – I sent my child to C2 for SAT Prep and his score went up 620 points. Say what you will about statewide SAT scores, but if you really do want your child to succeed, there are measures you can take to earn that success. Public Schools just can’t provide the individualized attention that helped my son succeed.


August 25th, 2009
12:03 pm

I can’t help but wonder if that USA Today article might help explain some trends going on in our local schools. I live in Cobb (Sprayberry district) and every year, I watch as Walton’s scores head up while Sprayberry’s declines (down 22 points this year). Incidentally, our neighborhood has seen an exodus of affluent parents looking to relocate to nearby Walton HS over the past few years. The newcomers tend not to have children or use private.

Gen. T. Sherman

August 25th, 2009
12:08 pm

Georgia Education: a complete joke. QBE, GA Lottery, etc… and still the results are multiple FAILURES on ALL types of ratings (graduation, CCRT etc.)! I’m lucky, proud and happy that my daughter goes to a private school. I refuse to be part of the experiment. NOW GIVE ME MY VOUCHER! I’m tired of paying money to a FAILURE of a system. As for the Sec. of Education Cathy Cox… from her website: “We will lead the nation in improving student achievement.” Sounds like she needs to be FIRED! Delta (the airline, not the unit)… I’m ready!

Dunwoody Mom

August 25th, 2009
12:09 pm

Just curious, among those top performing schools, did their scores increase or decrease from the year before? Could we get a list of schools where the scores increased?

I think those would be valuable lists as well.

Dunwoody Mom

August 25th, 2009
12:09 pm

Um, Gen.T.Sherman, private school scores are reflected in the overall score.

Dunwoody Mom

August 25th, 2009
12:10 pm

Of the top performing schools, were their scores up or down? What are the schools that increased their scores? I think these would be helpful lists as well.


August 25th, 2009
12:11 pm

Dunwoody Mom, I will suggest that we try and see which local schools saw a rise in their scores this year. Matt has posted the top metro schools. No surprises there as far as I can see.

Dunwoody Mom

August 25th, 2009
12:19 pm

Maureen, the usual schools at the top. But, I like to see progress and I like to reward progress. So, if we have schools that are continuing with that upward trend, then they should be recognized.


August 25th, 2009
12:20 pm

When most states test less than half their students, you can’t make ANY legitimate national comparison to states that test over 70 percent of their student population.

Ask Matt to chart SAT scores by participation rate, to see what I mean. This graph looks the same year after year.

Dunwoody Mom

August 25th, 2009
12:26 pm

Georgia has, for many years, a high participation rate. What are other states doing? Are they “advising” students not to take the SAT for some reason.

Dunwoody Mom

August 25th, 2009
12:41 pm

This from the USA Today article and something we’ve been discussing here on Maureen’s blog:

“The report’s analysis notes that students who had completed a core curriculum, taken their school’s most rigorous courses and familiarized themselves with the test were among the strongest performers.”

Fulton Parent

August 25th, 2009
12:49 pm

Fulton’s ability to contribute 5 of the top 10 performing schools is surely influenced by having all its high schoolers take the PSAT starting in 9th grade.

The question of whether the new math GPS and the Instructional Frameworks will help or hurt the SAT scores will become apparent soon. Fulton has the PSAT scores of the Class of 2012 from last year and should have already seen the trends as compared to the QCC educated prior classes reflected in these SAT scores.


August 25th, 2009
12:58 pm

The fact that Georgia African-American students on average scored better than other African-American students nationally (on average) is not a true accomplishment, especially considering that it’s lower than the state average.

And, I am African-American (man how I hate that term)…


August 25th, 2009
12:59 pm

All GA 9th graders in public school take the PSAT. That doesn’t explain anything.

Socio-economics explains a lot….

Interested party

August 25th, 2009
1:05 pm

Over the past few weeks, the DeKalb Vent has been going on about how the State pays for all students to take the SAT. Is this true? If so, wouldn’t all of the students who aren’t really interested in the SAT be contributing to Georgia’s low scores? Do all states require all students to take this test? Maybe we should re-evaluate this requirement.

Pulbic School Parent

August 25th, 2009
1:09 pm

I think the real test for the GPS math courses may be the Class of 2013, not 2012. Because the state did not offer a true “accelerated” math track to the class of 2012, a number of school districts allowed their advanced math students to take Algebra I and Geometry I in middle school or crafted other fixes to get these students back on a track to take AP Calculus their junior year. These Class of 2012 students are continuing with the traditional math courses, not the GPS integrated math courses.

However, I do see that students who take (and apply themselves) in the AP courses have better SAT scores. The type of questions on the AP quizzes and test are similar to SAT-type questions.

Dunwoody Mom

August 25th, 2009
1:10 pm

The state does not pay for the SAT.

As alice said 9th graders take the PSAT, I wonder who pays for that? I know the state pays for the 10th grade PSAT. My child took the PSAT in the 8th grade, but I paid for that.


August 25th, 2009
1:15 pm

It really is depressing that not one of the high schools from the southside of Fulton County made the list. Why do the predominately black high schools never make the lists of top performers?

Maureen's accountability metric

August 25th, 2009
1:19 pm

No surprise here; Maureen responds to another cupcake question, but ignores questions that strike at the heart of her credibility.

I’m sure she won’t mind asking Dana Tofig for yet another mountain of voluminous data, but let’s she if she’ll ask Dana Tofig to get a comment from Kathy Cox on the APS “report”?


August 25th, 2009
1:20 pm

So, the rightwing uses their political power to bash public education for eight years, and now we’re gonna scratch our heads as to why?

The people of GA, through the elcetion of Sonny, Chip Towers, etc. have basically said that public education should not even exist.

Got what you wished.


August 25th, 2009
1:24 pm

It is past time for accountability to provide a sharp poke to administrator who for too long have shrugged off their failure to educate. Kathy Cox should be gone today. No excuses, no fifth chances. Her lame-brained response, once again promising “world class” preparation while the DOE spokesperson wants to exclude the non-college bound to make the scores look better, is an admission that her department is bankrupt of ideas and her minions blaming the kids they have betrayed. Third strike, you’re out.

Also, what about the private school scores versus the public schools’? I’d like to see a side-by-side comparison of public, parochial and private schools’ scores and three-year trends. If public money can, as voucher adherents insist, deliver better value in private hands, let’s see some proof.


August 25th, 2009
1:27 pm

I am not surprised, especially the way Georgia attempts to conform to every whiney complaint instead of enforcing their long-standing, proven rules of discipline. And, as long as discipline in society is considered some form of abuse, when parents who take offense (and blame the school system) when their child is not performing as well as the next, and when religion is taken completely out of the social upbringing of our children, it’s no wonder that alot of other things are falling besides test scores. It’s spiraling out of control – to the detriment of our children – and we seem powerless to stop it.


August 25th, 2009
1:34 pm

FOR MAM: From Superintendent Kathy Cox:

“The audit by the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement clearly demonstrated to me and to the members of the State Board that the summer testing environment at Deerwood Academy and three other schools had been compromised in 2008 and the results of those tests were not valid. I believe the State Board of Education did the right thing by invalidating the results of last year’s fifth-grade CRCT retests and we stand behind that decision.”

Snidely Buttright

August 25th, 2009
1:35 pm

not surprising considering the priority most Georgians seem to give education. When God and football are more important to parents than science and mathematics, why would you expect their kids to do well in class? When coaches make more than English teachers, why would you expect kids to value reading and composition?

Dunwoody Mom

August 25th, 2009
1:46 pm

A quick check in DeKalb County. These are the schools whose test scores rose in 2009 in comparison to 2008:
Avondale, Cedar Grove, Chamblee, Clarkston, Cross Keys (yea!!), Dekalb School of the Arts, Druid Hills, Dunwoody, McNair, Miller Grove, Open Campus, Redan, Southwest Dekalb, Stone Mountain.

Maureen's accountability metric

August 25th, 2009
1:52 pm

As I posted on her newest blog topic, time to eat crow. Maureen did indeed get a response from Kathy Cox, and indeed did post it on the blog.

Time to go get some sweet tea, and wash down that crow!

Dunwoody Mom

August 25th, 2009
2:11 pm

Oops, my bad, Cross Keys did not improve.

Think Solutions

August 25th, 2009
2:49 pm

Now the question. What can you do tho help Georgia students get better?
We are so critical, if one student fails we all fail. These are
the future leaders, I guess some on this page feel it is ok to leave
some students behind. You are the same people who will complain when we must help support them in the future. Think Solutions!..

Think Solutions

August 25th, 2009
2:56 pm

Rememebr it will be the State of Georgia that misses out on the benefits of a educated Georgia.Companys will not relocate here if work forces is not educated.So it does affect us indirectly.

sav teach

August 25th, 2009
3:28 pm

I think that an excellent solution to the problem of lower scores, and to improve education in general in Georgia is to have more furlough days for teachers. That seems to be the governor’s solution.


August 25th, 2009
3:31 pm

The comment about companies not wanting to come to Georgia, or any other state, with a poor educational system is 100% correct. Case in point, my wife worked in the corporate offices of Penske trucking and we both know Roger Penske well. He was looking to move the company from Reading, PA. to the Phoenix area. He land set aside, and was all ready to move until he read a report from the Arizona Republic on how poor the schools were in Phoenix, and Arizona in general. He pulled the plug on that deal quick, because he wanted an educated workforce that he could pull from.


August 25th, 2009
6:18 pm

Judging by the SAT scores from the top-performing schools, it is possible to get a quality education in the public schools — at least if you’re in the right district.

It’s also good news that the “achievement gap” is lower in Georgia.

It would be nice if there were a valid way to compare Georgia’s scores with those of other states – for instance, same percentage of test-takers, same percentage of minority students, etc.

B. Killebrew

August 25th, 2009
7:11 pm

Hey John–

Interesting comment. I’m from East Cobb…which neighborhood/area in the Sprayberry district are you talking about in particular?


August 26th, 2009
9:51 am


I’m west of Holly Springs and east of Sandy Plains Rd with generally newer (post 2000) homes. It’s still a great place to live, but there’s been a definite decline in the use of public schools (particularly for middle/high) here from what I’ve seen. Given our proximity to the high performing East Cobb schools (Walton, Pope, Lassiter), it’s hard to comprehend otherwise why the gap between the other schools’ scores and Sprayberry’s grows every year. I’m curious if any other people have experienced this trend (public schoolers moving out, private schoolers moving in) in their neighborhoods.


August 26th, 2009
4:01 pm

Ms Downey, are these scores inclusive of special ed kids in the statistics? I am curious if those have been weeded out or included.


August 26th, 2009
4:07 pm

ga, The scores are for any students who took the SAT, so I assume that some special education students did take them. Most kids who are heading to college take the SAT. I know that some special education students are not college bound, but there are many whose learning issues don’t preclude college and they likely took the SAT.
Nationwide, about 2 percent of SAT takers are eligible for special accommodation because of disabilities.

B. Killebrew

August 26th, 2009
5:49 pm

Hey John…

I know exactly the area you live in…you’re in the Mountain View district. I grew up off of Davis Road…also in the Mountain View district, but on the Pope/Hightower Trail side. You’re zoned for Sprayberry/Simpson.

It is really sad to hear this…Sprayberry is a good/great high school…it suffers because of its close proximity to Walton/Pope/Lassiter. If Sprayberry’s district were located somewhere else (same characteristics), it would probably be more sought after/receive accolades.

I think one of the best kept secrets of East Cobb is the Mountain View/Addison/Kincaid part of the Sprayberry district. Most of the this part feeds into Simpson (which has an excellent reputation…due to its large Lassiter population as well)…and all three elementaries have great reps. And Daniell (also fed by Addison/Kincaid) is a good school with a great principal/staff.

I think Sprayberry needs a unique magnet program like Wheeler High…this has helped Wheeler stay strong and hold its own against the other East Cobb schools…with demographics that are not so similar to Walton/Pope/Lassiter. Wheeler is a strong school is that does a great job serving all of its students…which Sprayberry does as well! The problem is that people look at test scores only and the fact that Sprayberry is 55-60% White instead of 75%+ White (Walton…large Asian pop) and 83%+ White (Pope/Lassiter).

Sprayberry is great. I hope the community continues to realize this.

Moreover, I’d rather my child attend the East Cobb schools of Sprayberry, Wheeler, or Kell instead of the other three. Why? Because Sp, Wh, and Ke offer top academics, but students are also exposed to a more well-rounded population without all of the hyper-intensity/snobbery/image issues that characterize Wa, Po, and La.

English teacher

August 29th, 2009
5:22 pm

Think Solutions, the problem is not exclusively with the school system. I had over 30 high school kids out of 120 fail one semester last year, and not one of those parents contacted me. Nor did they respond to the myriad of emails and letters I sent during the semester to attempt to engage them. Those students who fail, do so because they do not do the work assigned – are too lazy to read even something as short as a three page story when given an entire weekend to do so. There’s only so much teachers can do. It’s not that I’ve given up, or don’t care. I easily put in over 80 hours a week to try to develop engaging lessons. The problem is vast and complicated.