Test scores dropped by five points in Cobb Schools, which serves 16 high school, and by three points for Marietta City Schools, which only serves Marietta High School.
The SAT is a college entrance exam that is developed, administered and scored by the College Board on a 2400-point scale with the possibility of earning 800 points on each section – reading, math and writing.
The average score of Cobb’s 5,850 students who were tested dropped from 1520 in 2012 to 1515 in 2013. Marietta High’s scores, which reflected those taken by 248 seniors, were 1456 in 2013, down from 1459 last year.
Georgia’s average score was 1452 and the nation, 1498. Both are the same scores recorded in 2012.
Kennesaw State Professor H.E. “Doc” Holliday, who has nearly 30 years of experience as a high school principal including at Wheeler and Campbell high schools in Cobb and in Ohio for 14 years prior to that, said low SAT scores come down to lack of experience in leadership roles and putting the right strategies in place to improve scores.
“We have so many inexperienced high school principals (in Cobb Schools) that they really don’t understand how to get those national standardized test scores up,” he said Thursday. “These principals are working as hard as they know how to work but they need special assistance from the central office and the Cobb County School District central office can’t help them because they don’t have the expertise themselves.”
Holliday, who has taught in Kennesaw State’s Bagwell College of Education since 2005, also said there are too many officials at the central office who have experience in elementary schools and not high school, which is stifling the effort.
“They need a better balance of people who know what they are doing at the high school level and, until then, there will be a disparity in scores,” he said. “I love Cobb County but they could do better and it starts with the leadership in the central office.”
A lack of leadership?
Holliday recommended a few strategies for testing success.
“They need to identify those kids who have potential to do better on these tests and they give them the type of support, practice and academic nurturing that they need to move to that next level, and if you don’t do that, those kids will not move, especially in those at-risk areas,” he said referencing south Cobb schools, which recorded some of the lowest SAT scores in Cobb.
The three schools with the lowest scores were Osborne, 1232; Pebblebrook, 1283; and South Cobb, 1307.
“Be an advocate for those kids … like you see in east Cobb,” he said. “It works because we did it (at Wheeler). That’s a function of leadership or a lack of leadership in this case.”
During one three-year period at Wheeler, Holliday said they improved SAT scores by 43 points overall.
And while seniors’ scores in Cobb dropped overall by five points, 10 of the 16 high schools still recorded increased scores or remained the same, including Pope, Wheeler, Harrison, Hillgrove, Osborne, North Cobb, McEachern, Pebblebrook, Lassiter and Kell.
The schools that recorded decreases are Allatoona, Walton, South Cobb, Sprayberry, Kennesaw Mountain and Campbell.
The three highest SAT scores were recorded at Walton, 1741; Pope, 1680; and Wheeler, 1651. All three high schools are located in the east Cobb area.
Superintendents say strategies in place for improvement
Marietta Superintendent Emily Lembeck said, “Although Marietta’s SAT scores ranked us among the top 20 percent statewide (29 out of 178 Georgia high schools), we need more academic supports such as an SAT/ACT Boot camp to be offered at Marietta High School this year. These additional supports will help us meet the needs of the increased number of first-generation students that aspire to go to college.”
Lembeck said they are also encouraging students to take more rigorous classes such as advanced placement or international baccalaureate.
“That type of coursework really enhances the student to do better on the ACT and SAT,” she said. “The students now are also being exposed to a more rigorous curriculum and that can only help once they gain a little confidence with it.”
For Cobb Superintendent Michael Hinojosa, SAT scores are among the measuring sticks his school board looks at in its annual evaluation of his job performance.
Like Marietta, his district has initiatives in place like Project 2400, which helps students prepare for the test using the Princeton Review programs, but he also encourages hiring good teachers, training them well and increasing rigor in the classroom.
Last year, the group cut the 2400 program’s budget from $125,000 to $62,500 with plans to discontinue funding completely this fall due to budget shortfalls. But the school board in July restored $62,500 in funding to Project 2400. The Cobb Schools Foundation will pay the other half.