SAT participation increases, scores decrease

The Georgia Dept. of Education says scores tend to decline when there is more participation

The numbers are in.

SAT participation increased in Georgia, but total scores in the state and Dougherty County declined.

"I am not disappointed at all. I wish our scores were higher but I do believe we have more students taking the exam," says Renee Bridges, System Test Coordinator for the Dougherty County School System.

Statewide the mean total SAT score was 1445 out of a possible 2600 for the class of 2011. Dougherty County's mean total SAT score is 154 points less than the state. Compared to 2010, the state and national means decrease six points and Dougherty County decreased eight points.

According to the Georgia Department of Education, the more student participation there is the more mean scores decline. More test data could also be skewing the numbers.

"This year, the College Board Senior Report went through March for the assessment, and now they're actually calculating in test takers from June," says Bridges. "They even announced to us that students who test later generally don't test high because they've put off taking the test."

Critical Reading scores across the state decreased three points in the last year, and while Dougherty County remained at 435 for 2010 and 2011, the school system's critical reading scores decreased 18 points since 2007.

A decline in reading skills can be seen across Dougherty County.

According to Albany Technical College's Adult Learning Center in Leesburg, students ages 16 to 24 taking the GED on are the rise. When they come to take the courses prior to the test, instructors say their reading skills are at a fourth or fifth grade level.

"Most of our students that enter our program, they come in reading on a pretty low level. Most of our students are high school drop outs," says Katrina Towns, a GED instructor with Albany Tech.

Towns says she remembers participating in accelerated reading groups in high school and elementary schools, reading several books a week. She says the reading level of students in Dougherty County can increase by utilizing programs such as accelerated reading or by students simply reading more on their own.

"The more you read the more you know, the more words you learn, you learn the sounds, so you become more comfortable with reading. So if you do something every day you tend to remember how to do it or you get better," says Towns.

It's accelerated and advanced education programs that the Dougherty County Schools System believes will accelerate SAT scores.

"The best advice I can give to a student would be to definitely take classes in high school that are more rigorous, that require higher thinking skills that lend themselves more to college preparatory," says Bridges. "Engaging in higher level course work during high school such as AP and honors classes will definitely enhance the sat and act scores."

State SAT math scores averaged at 487 while Dougherty County was at 431. Georgia's mean SAT writing score came in at 473 while Dougherty County's was 425.

According to Bridges, students participating in Advanced Placement tests soared in the last year from 598 in 2010 to 788 in 2011. In 2002, only 223 Dougherty County students took Advanced Placement tests.

The SAT is a test distributed at a national level while each state has its own individual curriculum requirements. Therefore, to help with the variation in curriculum requirements and to better fit curriculum to what may be tested on the SAT, the U.S. is implementing Common Core Curriculum, and Bridges says Georgia should be rolling out the program next year.