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Newton County's SAT scores drop in 2013

Scores remain below state, national averages

COVINGTON — Newton County’s SAT scores continue to fall below state and national averages and the latest report shows the college-entrance scores decreased significantly over last year.

According to results released from the Newton County School System, SAT scores declined in all subject areas over last year. Specifically, the school system’s 2013 average scores decreased four points in critical reading, seven points in math and five points in writing compared to 2012 scores.

By comparison, Georgia’s average scores increased two points in critical reading, decreased two points in math and remained the same on the writing test in 2013. National averages remained unchanged over the past year.

The SAT is a national college entrance exam used by many colleges and universities to measure critical thinking skills students need to be successful in college.

Each section of the SAT is scored out of a possible 800 points for an overall score of 2400.

The average critical reading score for NCSS in 2013 was 454; the average math score was 435; and the average writing score was 438.

In 2012, Newton County students scored an average of 458 in critical reading, 442 in math and 443 in writing, which were all below the state average.

Statewide, the average scores in 2013 were 490 for critical reading; 487 for math; and 475 for writing. Nationally, students scored an average of 496 in reading; 514 on the math section; and 488 in writing.

Allison Jordan, director of testing, research and evaluation at NCSS, said there are many contributing factors to SAT scores. For example, she said, some of those would be the number of test-takers (generally the more students taking the test, the lower the scores); the rigor of high school curriculum (students who take Advanced Placement classes tend to excel on the exam); and whether a test prep course was taken.

However, she said, more analysis on the scores is needed.

“We have to look at these scores much closer,” Jordan said Thursday. “We have work to do, it is evident. We have to accept it and take ownership and make changes where we need to.”

• Eastside High School

While still below the state and nation, Eastside High School students outpaced their peers at Alcovy and Newton high schools. Even so, their scores fell significantly over last year.

The average critical reading score among EHS students in 2013 was 479, a 10-point drop from last year; 457 in math, representing a 13-point decline; and 466 on writing, which is four points less than 2012.

Four fewer students took the SAT in 2013 than the year before, with 186 students sitting for the exam.

• Newton High School

Newton High School students improved their SAT scores over last year in both reading and math.

Critical reading scores jumped 10 points to an average 453 and math scores rose five points to an average 435. Writing scores dipped one point to 426.

As at EHS, fewer students at NHS attempted the SAT in 2013. Only 150 students — 64 less than 2012 — took the SAT.

• Alcovy High School

Alcovy High School students fared the worst on the SAT in 2013.

Critical reading scores there dropped 10 points to an average 435. Both math and writing scores fell nine points to scores of 419 and 425, respectively.

Unlike the other two high schools, Alcovy had the greatest number of students — 249 — attempt the test, which is 49 more than last year.

“While we are pleased with the improvements experienced at Newton High School, there is much work to be done to improve our overall performance,” NCSS Superintendent Samantha Fuhrey stated in a press release Thursday. “The SAT results reflect the collective efforts of a school system’s elementary, middle and high schools. It takes strategic planning, continuous reflection and community engagement and support to develop a well-designed plan that leads to improved results. Our goal is to ensure all students are college- and career-ready, enabling them to have choices beyond graduation.”

School board member Jeff Meadors was dismayed by this year’s results.

“There is no good way to spin this,” he said in an email to the Citizen. “The massive injection of professional learning dollars in NCSS is not yet taking hold. Will it?”

Meadors said that accountability in school-level leadership is crucial to providing students the right education to help them become successful.

“Alcovy has double-digit declines in math and critical reading last year and now this? This is not college readiness. In business, we would have cleaned house by now in support of our students rather than worry over sue-happy leadership at the expense of student achievement,” he said.

“Now here we are trailing the state and the nation, and my district high school trails the county, and it is seriously unfair to students and taxpayers.”