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Wednesday, September 14, 2011 - 7:52am

SAT Scores Drop For Fifth Year

High school students’ SAT scores dropped for the fifth year in a row as the number of students taking the college-entrance exam continues to grow.

Test data released Wednesday shows that average scores in the state fell six points from last year to an average of 1445 out of 2400 points. That trails the national average of 1500, which was also down this year.

Eighty percent of the class of 2011 took the SAT, the fifth highest rate in the country and the highest ever in Georgia. That’s a mixed blessing for Georgia because states with high numbers of test takers also tend to post lower average scores. Georgia students scored an average 1445 out of 2400 points, which is 55 points lower than the national average.

North Hall High School in Gainesville bucked the statewide trend and boosted its scores. Principal Joe Gheesling credits a combination of increased rigor and individualized attention.

"When I get that roster in I try to talk to every one of those kids," Gheesling says. "I’ll call them in and talk to em and if I see that we have kids who have room for improvement, I just give them some guidance about what they can do to get their scores up."

State officials say moves to allow students to take coursework that directs them to specific college or career goals will also help improve academic outcomes. Matt Cardoza of the state education department says schools need to increase course rigor but also make sure that students are taking the right test for their post-college plans.

"Are we ensuring that the students who take the SAT are prepared for the SAT, and are the students who are taking the SAT actually needing to take the SAT versus some other college exam?" Cardoza says.

The state did show slight progress this year in closing the gap in scores between white and minority students, and the achievement gap between black and white students in Georgia is 41 points smaller than the nation’s as a whole.

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