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Local SAT results echo state statistics
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Bryan County schools often get high marks for their strong academics.
But SAT scores at the system’s two high schools dropped in 2010, mirroring a statewide trend that saw a decline in the average score for the more than 66,000 students in Georgia who took the test.
The reason may boil down to numbers.
“Bottom line – more students are taking the SAT and all have not taken a more rigorous curriculum in preparation for it.,” said Bryan Schools Superintendent John Oliver. “Our Bryan County students continue to do well on the SAT overall.”
At Bryan County High School, 41 students took the test in 2010, averaging 1,298 overall, down from a 1,315 average in 2009. That was a decline from 2008 when BCHS averaged 1,321 on the SAT.
At Richmond Hill, 218 students took the test and scored an average of 1,525. That score was down from 1,572 in 2009, according to the state DoE website. In 2008, RHHS had an average of 1,547 when 198 students took the test.  
The highest score possible on the SAT is 2,400, or 800 on each of the three sections.
Richmond Hill ranked 35th in the state among the state’s more than 300 public high schools in 2009. It remains one of the higher performing schools in the Coastal Empire – in 2010 only Savannah Arts Academy, with a 1,712 average among 147 test takers, fared better.
Bryan County’s scores were similar to other small, rural high schools in the area. Claxton High had 48 students take the test, averaging 1,227. At Tattnall County, 75 students took the SAT, averaging 1,348.
The top scoring school in the state was the Advanced Academy of Georgia in Carrollton. Its seven live-in students averaged 1,979 on the test, used as a college entrance exam.
Most of the school’s top performing schools are in the metro Atlanta area.  Thirteen of the top 16 schools in metro Atlanta have SAT averages above 1,600 – and three average better than 1,700.
Yet the state still lags behind.
Georgia’s public, private and home school students scored 1,453 on the SAT college entrance exam and the national average was 1,509, according to the Georgia Department of Education. The state’s public school students scored 1,442 on the exam and the national average score was 1,497.
Education officials point to the high participation rate – nearly 75 percent of Georgia’s high school students take the SAT  – while noting most of the 2010 test takers haven’t had to deal with the tougher curriculum standards which went into effect in July.
That’s when the state BoE adopted Common Core State Standards (CCSS) in English language arts and mathematics for grades K-12.
“The State Board’s vote to adopt the Common Core State Standards was a huge step toward giving us a meaningful comparison of our students’ achievement with that of students in other states,” said State Board of Education Chair Wanda Barrs. “Our students will be competing for jobs with students from all over the world and we must be able to compare ourselves to the rest of the U.S. and other countries to ensure that we are providing students with the tools they need to be globally competitive.”
Georgia has made strides, state education officials say, particularly when it comes to raising minority test scores. Georgia’s African-American and Hispanic students score higher than their peers nationally.
“It is good news that our African-American and Hispanic students are doing better than their peers nationally,” said State Superintendent of Schools Brad Bryant. “But Georgia is a very diverse state, and in order to raise our average SAT score, we must continue to close the achievement gap.”
The difference between the scores of African-American and white public school students – called “the achievement gap” – is 271 points in Georgia, which is 33 points smaller than the achievement gap nationwide (304). The gap between the scores of Hispanic and white public school students in Georgia is 136 points, 82 points lower than the nation (218), according to the state DoE.
But Bryant pointed out that Georgia has very high minority participation on the SAT and the achievement gap impacts overall SAT scores more than it does in most other states.
“We certainly should be pleased that our achievement gap is smaller than the nation’s, but we should not be satisfied with 271 and 136 point gaps,” he said. “Georgia has 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 with academically rigorous courses.”
In response, the state has been pushing to increase the number of students who are taking AP classes. Students who take even one year of AP classes in any subject will score higher on the SAT, educators say.
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