It was about ten years ago when I was at an Atlanta Braves game with my wife. Both of us, as educators, were dismayed to learn about an earlier event. When it was announced at the game that Georgia finished towards the bottom, nationally, in SAT scores, the crowd erupted into a cheer. Or was it one of those cheers a pitcher gets for throwing a strike after nine balls?
It was then that I started thinking about the issue. I met many bright teachers, and chatted with politicians, even Governor Nathan Deal. But I was still stumped about the issue of how Georgia compares to other states. So I set my undergraduate students from my American Experience class on the task. And here is what they found.
“When looking at the SAT results in 2009, Georgia was only ranked 47 out of the possible 50 states in America, getting an average score of 1460. We compared the results to Iowa who scored the highest national average of 1813, being ranked number one in writing, critical thinking and math. This gave Iowa the best SAT scores in comparison to all of the states,” wrote Keshia Johnson, Caroline Ostenfeld, John Veal and Alyese Wilkerson.
“We then looked at how many people took the SAT tests in Georgia, Illinois and Colorado,” those students continued. “Georgia had 63,446 people take the SATs, in comparison to Illinois who only had 8,857 and Colorado only having 9,988 people take the test. This might explain why Georgia was only ranked 47th, due to the number of people that took the test.”
Another team, led by Kadeshia Brown, Jessica Cagle, Joshua Ham and Priscilla Scarborough, found the following: “According to Collegeboard.com, Georgia’s SAT scores decreased in every category over the past 7 years. These scores only reflected that of college bound seniors. After a 24 point drop in 2006, Georgia sadly continued to drop and did not increase by any significant sum. However, statistics show that scores from 2012 raised an average of 7 points as the national score fell.”
“We believe that a contributing factor to such a set of low scores is Georgia’s high participation rate in taking the SAT,” these students wrote. “Although Georgia is ranked 48th in the nation in scores, it is in the top ten for participation. A theory is that because some students improperly prepared for the test, this would cause scores to be lower than the score of other states.”
What about those “Race to the Top” grants? Kelsey Yaughn, Tatum Aldridge, Blake Shuler, and Anthony Jenkins researched this. “According to the U.S. Department of Education (2012), Georgia was one among many states who did in fact win a Race to the Top grant. Georgia received the official notice for the grant as of September 24, 2010, and the amount was an approximate $400 million dollars,” they found.
When you conduct a comprehensive evaluation, there’s a much better picture for the Peach State. “According to the research which was performed by Education Weekly, the state of Georgia ranked number seven in the nation in scholastic performance,” wrote Bianca Ferguson, Alan Hunn, Zach Piorkowski, Felipe Vega, and Ebone Williams
“This ranking was assessed by the following criteria: Chance for Success, The Teaching Profession, K-12 Achievement, School Finance, Standards, Assessments, & Accountability, and Transitions and Alignment. Georgia had an overall grade of 79.7, which is well above the 76.5 U.S. national average. Additionally, Georgia recorded perfect scores in the sub-criteria of Early-Childhood Education, Economy & Workforce, as well as Standards,” the students wrote. Now that news is something for Atlanta Braves fans to cheer this year.