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Thursday October 18th, 2018 1:15AM

Georgia climbs in SAT rankings despite drop in score

By The Associated Press
<p>Georgia crawled out of last place this year for SAT college-entrance exam scores despite a three-point drop in the state's mean score for reading and math.</p><p>Gov. Sonny Perdue and state schools Superintendent Kathy Cox touted Georgia's rise in the rankings as a sign of progress.</p><p>But just how far Georgia rose depends on whether the new writing portion of the exam is included.</p><p>Georgia ranks 49th among states based on the combined reading and math mean score, according to state test results released Tuesday. The state's combined mean score in reading and math fell to 990, with the highest possible score at 1,600.</p><p>Perdue and Cox, however, said that when the new writing portion is considered, Georgia now ranks 46th.</p><p>"Compared to our national peers, we've jumped over Florida, South Carolina, Pennsylvania and Hawaii and nobody's going to take that away from us," Perdue said during a news conference at his office.</p><p>Fewer Georgia students took the SAT this year _ 70 percent of 11th and 12th graders compared to last year's 75 percent _ after the state Board of Regents stopped requiring the exam of students planning to attend community colleges.</p><p>When asked if the previous Democratic administration could take credit for laying the roadwork for the rise in the rankings, Perdue laughed and banged his hand on the podium.</p><p>"You have my answer," he said.</p><p>He attributed the improved ranking to the state's new school curriculum, new online SAT prep classes available to Georgia's students and more students taking the PSAT.</p><p>Georgia's combined mean score on all three portions was 1,477 out of a possible 2,400.</p><p>The state ranks last among the 50 states on the math section, with a mean score of 496, and 45th in reading scores, with a mean score of 494. The state's 487 on the new writing portion of the test earned Georgia a 41st ranking among the 50 states.</p><p>Because the writing portion is new, writing scores cannot be compared to last year's. But combined reading and math scores can.</p><p>South Carolina and the District of Columbia _ which were at the bottom of the list with Georgia last year _ saw bigger drops than Georgia in this year's combined reading and math. South Carolina ranks last among the 50 states, with a combined reading and math score of 985.</p><p>The District of Columbia scored the lowest overall with a mean reading and math score of 959.</p><p>The high school class of 2006 recorded the sharpest drop in SAT scores in 31 years, in part because some students took the newly lengthened test only once instead of twice, according to the test's administrators, the College Board. The national mean score in reading and math fell seven points to 1,021.</p><p>The College Board discourages the use of the test scores to compare education from state to state because the percentage of students who take them varies widely.</p><p>"It's not apples to apples in terms of comparison," College Board spokeswoman Caren Scoropanos said. "Typically the more students who take the test, the scores are lower. Students in North Dakota, Mississippi or Iowa tend to be a more competitive student body."</p><p>But that hasn't stopped politicians and some education officials from using the scores prominently when talking about state schools.</p><p>"Our SAT scores are worse this year than they were last year, and Sonny Perdue wants to celebrate that fact," said Rick Dent, spokesman for Democratic Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor, who will challenge Perdue in the November election. "This is like Georgia losing a football game and moving up in the polls _ nobody in their right mind would be happy about that."</p><p>Still, political experts say Perdue is clearly breathing a sigh of relief that Georgia no longer ranks last among states on the SAT.</p><p>Charles Bullock, a political science professor at the University of Georgia, said that while Democrats can still argue a lack of progress, they'll have a tougher time gaining traction than if they had a last-place ranking to attack.</p><p>"If Georgia had been in last place, that's the kind of thing the opposition could use," Bullock said. "At 49th or 46th, whichever way you look at it, the opposition can still say we're toward the bottom of the heap, which is true. But the governor can argue we're moving in the right direction."</p><p>During the 2002 gubernatorial campaign, Perdue blasted then-governor Roy Barnes for low SAT scores. Perdue aired television commercials claiming that the scores showed Barnes's aggressive education reforms had been a failure and hammered at the issue during debates.</p><p>When scores bumped along at roughly the same level during Gov. Perdue's tenure, never getting better than 49th in the nation, he shifted his focus _ highlighting last year's six-point score increase, for example. Last year, he said Georgia scores "bode very well for the future."</p><p>Democrats, meanwhile, have blasted the lack of marked improvement, saying Perdue made SAT scores a litmus test for education, then failed to significantly improve them.</p><p>___</p><p>Associated Press writer Doug Gross contributed to this report.</p>
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