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Rockdale, Newton college test averages drop, below national levels

Covington -- Area school systems are dealing with declining scores on college entrance exams that are below state and national averages.

The Georgia Department of Education and the College Board announced earlier this week that while the number of test-takers across Georgia increased on the SAT college entrance exam, scores declined from last year.

"It's good that we have so many students aspiring to go to college," said State School Superintendent John Barge in a press release. "However, I believe we have to do a better job of educating our students as to what exam is needed to get into the appropriate postsecondary institution."

Additionally, Georgia's average scores were below national averages.

Of the 75,510 students taking the test across Georgia this year, students on average scored 485 on reading, 487 on math and 473 on writing. National averages were 497 in reading, 514 in math and 489 in writing.

"The good news for Georgia is that our achievement gap is much smaller than the nation's," Barge said. "The bad news is that we still have an achievement gap that must be closed."

The SAT is a national college entrance exam that assesses how well students analyze and solve problems; typically students take it during their junior and/or senior year of high school. Each section has a possible score from 200 to 800.

Students in both Rockdale and Newton county public schools on average scored below state averages on all areas of the SAT.

The 744 students in Rockdale County Public Schools who took the test scored on average 458 in reading, 451 in math and 440 in writing, according to RCPS.

"Our scores are certainly not where we want them to be," said RCPS Superintendent Samuel King. "We want all of our students to aspire to attend college; however, there are necessary steps students must take in order to be prepared for the SAT and other college entrance exams."

He said this includes taking rigorous courses like Advanced Placement classes and enrolling students in SAT preparatory classes.

The 571 Newton County School System students who took the test scored on average 452 on reading, 440 on math and 438 on writing.

"The fact is no matter how we choose to slice and dice these results, we simply must do better at preparing our students for a postsecondary education," said NCSS Superintendent Gary Mathews. "Imagine what schools could do if each and every parent insisted on their children being postsecondary or college ready. While our schools can control what they do during the school day, we need parents to help us insist on homework, academic rigor, classroom discipline and an overarching recognition of what schools are for -- a preparation for the future."

Scores have dropped across the board from last year's results. Newton's system average as a whole dropped nine points in reading and 11 points both in math and writing, and the overall average in Rockdale schools dropped 56 points; averages in Georgia also dropped.

"While we will accept no excuses on the part of educators, we are seeking parent support of the educational process at home," Mathews said. "Kids need a place at home to do homework and insistence each evening that it be completed before all else; kids need to be challenged at school, even as we build their background knowledge; kids need to know that they do not have the right to disrupt the learning of others and that attention to the teacher is vital; and kids need to know that what they get out of school will foretell what they will get out of life. If the school and home work together, we will dramatically increase the odds that students will be postsecondary or college ready."

The number of students taking the test in each county increased from last year. NCSS reported 85 more students taking the test, and RCPS had 142 more students taking it.

"We have far more students taking the SAT than the number of students going to four-year universities," Barge said. "Many of our postsecondary institutions don't require the SAT for students to be accepted. When we roll out our career pathways next year, the appropriate postsecondary tests needed for enrollment will be clearly outlined for students."