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SAT scores need fair comparison

POSTED: September 9, 2009 4:00 a.m.

In his Gainesville Times Sept. 2 column, Tom Crawford takes unjustified shots at Gov. Sonny Perdue and State School Superintendent Kathy Cox over Georgia SAT scores. Crawford uses his brand of statistical reporting to indicate how poorly Georgia has done in education over the past seven years.  

  

Crawford stated: “During the past academic year, students in the southern states of Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, Florida, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, Texas and Kentucky all had higher average SAT scores than Georgia.”  

 

Please note the term “higher average SAT scores.” 

  

This means that all SAT scores are added and the total is divided by the number of students taking the test. I point this out because some states test only those students who plan to go to college; other states use different criteria for college placement.

  

For the past five years I have been a member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee, which oversees the budget for K-12 Education, and as a retired statistics professor, I believe I’m qualified to discuss educational accomplishments in Georgia. 

  

In the most recent SAT, Georgia tested 71 percent of students. In order to compare “apples to apples,” this discussion is only about those states that tested at least 40 percent of the students. Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, Tennessee and Kentucky tested fewer than 40 percent of their students, so they did not qualify for comparison.

  

The most recently released SAT scores had Georgia with a 1460 (Maximum of 2400), which was ahead of D.C., Hawaii, Maine and South Carolina — all of which had more than 40 percent of their students taking the test. 

  

The national news media doesn’t like to admit it, but some ethnic groups score better on the SAT than do others.  

  

Georgia’s four main ethnic populations, percentage of total student population, and SAT scores are as follows:  Asian (5 percent) (1600), Hispanic (5 percent) (1432), Black (30 percent) (1272), and White (55 percent) (1551).  

  

The 279 point gap (1551-1272) between the black and white students is unacceptable. Superintendent Cox has set forth a special effort to close it.

  

Why isn’t Georgia’s SAT ranked higher?

  

Comparing Georgia (1460) with Pennsylvania (1477) will give us the statistical reason. All four of Georgia’s ethnic groups ranked higher than Pennsylvania’s — Asian (1600 vs. 1571); Hispanic (1432 vs. 1321); Black (1272 vs. 1208); White (1551 vs. 1522). So how is Pennsylvania’s SAT 17 points higher than that of Georgia?

  

Remember, the state SAT score is an average of all the students taking the test. Thirty percent of Georgia’s students taking the test were Black (1272), while only 10 percent of Pennsylvania’s students were Black (1208). It is encouraging to note that every year the SAT among Georgia’s Black student population has improved.  

  

One of the areas in which the Georgia Education System excels even more is on Advanced Placement exams.  

  

Georgia leads the nation with the growth of students taking the AP exams and those who pass with acceptable grades. Studies show that exposure to AP courses will increase SAT scores at least 20 points. We need to continue to encourage more students to take AP courses.        

  

My thanks go to State School Superintendent Kathy Cox. She and her staff provided much of the data used in this week’s column. 

  

Amos Amerson can be reached at 689 N. Chestatee Street, Dahlonega, GA 30533; (706) 864-6589; e-mail hamerson@windstream.net.

 

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