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.