The ‘rest of the story’ on Georgia’s SAT scores
by Bill Kinney
Associate Editor
September 16, 2012 02:19 AM | 3915 views | 7 7 comments | 15 15 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Bill Kinney
Bill Kinney
We heard for years about how bad Georgia’s public schools are, and the statistic that’s usually recited to “prove” that is our ranking on the SAT test.

Georgia in recent years has ranked 48th in the country. In 2011 we were ahead only of South Carolina (49th), Maine (50th) and the District of Columbia (51st). In first place was Illinois.

Georgia’s composite score was 1445 out of a maximum of 2400. Illinois’ composite score was 1807.

“When you look at the rankings, well, that’s where most people stop. Because it really fits the vogue kind of agenda of bashing public education,” Georgia state School Superintendent John Barge told the Marietta Kiwanis Club at a meeting earlier this month. “But like Paul Harvey used to say, here’s ‘the rest of the story.’”

“Well, the rest of the story is in the next column over, the one called ‘participation rate.’ What percentage of your seniors take the test?”

In the top state, Illinois, only 5 percent of seniors take the SAT.

In fact, not a single state in the Top Ten tested more than 9 percent of their seniors, Barge said.

“And 21 states did not test more than 10 percent of their kids,” he added.

So what was Georgia’s participation rate? A healthy 80 percent of seniors, he said.

Only three states that finished ahead of Georgia in composite score had a higher participation rate on the test than did Georgia. They were:

Massachusetts, tested 89 percent of students and finished 27th. Connecticut, which tested 87 percent and finished 31st overall. And New York, which tested 89 percent and finished 42nd overall. Maine, which had the highest overall participation rate at 90 percent, finished 50th.

Barge next looked at what the average score would be for Georgia if only the top 5 percent of scores were measured. That is, if only the top 5 percent of students had been allowed to take the SAT, as in Illinois.

“It was over 2000, and that’s good,” Barge said.

Meanwhile, Georgia students have been doing very well on the Advanced Placement Test, which is given to students who complete college-level AP courses while still in high school, and get college credit for them. Those tests are graded not by the high school teachers, but by College Board assessors.

Georgia has an open-access rule to both AP enrollment and taking the SAT test.

“We ranked 13th in the nation in the percentage of students passing their AP exams and earning college credits,” Barge said. But if you did down further, it gets even better, he said.

Georgia had the fifth-highest participation rate in the country of African-American students taking the AP test. And Georgia ranked second in the country in the percentage of such students passing the tests, he said.

Georgia also is one of only a few states that got a score of 100 percent for “access and equity” in terms of Hispanic students.

“I’m not saying that we don’t still have a large achievement gap to work on. We do,” he said. “But I wanted you to know the rest of the story and some of the good news on where we’re headed. We have a lot of room for improvement, but we also have a lot to feel good about.”

And that’s something to feel better about.

Bill Kinney is associate editor of The Marietta Daily Journal.
Comments-icon Post a Comment
Thank you
September 24, 2012
Bill - great piece. It's about time that someone clarified how participation rate impacts the score. I'm always amazed how people spout stats and don't understand how they are derived and the agenda they are being used for.
September 17, 2012
No one doubts we have "good schools", but schools are unequal. My daughter just recived her invite to Duke Tip from her charer school, GCA. Whereas the south cobb middle school my other child attended would never notify parents of these opportunities. Just complacent and substandard all around and Sanderson didn't give a flip! We couldn't sacrafice another child there. GCA has exceeded our expectations. Cobb fails kids when they employ substandard teachers at the expense of the students. The test scores are not surprising, if learning takes place, scores reflect this. Now the rest of the story is WHICH public schools are the students attending. THAT'S the rest of the story!
Decatur Joe
September 16, 2012
All of that being said, we have experienced the largest cheating scandal in US history, the stripping of accreditation for multiple school districts, the pending federal racketeering suit against the former superitendent in DeKalb, dropout rates which are at epidemic rates and all of this takes place in school districts along I-285.

Bill and John need to take their heads out of the sand and realize that dressing up a pig doesn't make it any less of a pig. It is time we own up to our own miserable failures in public education which far outweigh "the rest of the story."
Pray tell
September 18, 2012
How do you cheat on the SAT?
September 16, 2012
Bill Kenney, thank you for this article. We have good schools here in Cobb and we have a lot of smart kids all across Georgia.

I hope MDJ can do news stories that pull apart the statistics which are reported and make many front page news stories that show the truth behind the numbers. Please keep reinforcing good news about our schools on the editorial page.
September 18, 2012
I find it especially interesting that so many persons outside of the field of education fail to hold parents even slightly accountable for their students’ academic success and that so many, having no experience whatsoever in the field of education, other than their own past school attendance as children, consider themselves somehow qualified to criticize Georgia's schools. There is no more difficult job in this country than that of teacher. Those of you who think you "know it all," should actually volunteer time in today's diverse, overcrowded, understaffed, underfunded schools to better understand the myriad challenges educators face every single day.
Another Delusional
September 19, 2012
Re: "There is no more difficult job in this country than that of teacher"

- Coke through my nose laughing

- Comments like this are why the bottom tier of teachers who are constantly whining are held in such low regard by the public
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