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State scores not worthy of boasts

We're No. 46! We're No. 46! Doesn't have quite the same ring, does it? But if you listened to Gov. Sonny Perdue announce the state's SAT scores Tuesday, you'd have thought Georgia's new ranking was something worth celebrating.

"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.

It's true. Georgia, which was long at the bottom of the pack for SAT scores, rose to 46th this year when the writing portion was added to the exam.

Yes, the state did improve its ranking. Yes, Georgia's results on the new writing portion are encouraging.

Unfortunately, the governor's hollow boasts don't change the fact that Georgia is far closer to the bottom than it is to the top of the education ladder. The state 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.

Georgia ranks 49th among states based on the combined reading and math mean score, surpassing South Carolina. According to the Associated Press, the high school class of 2006 recorded the sharpest drop in SAT scores in 31 years. The national mean score in reading and math fell seven points.

Statewide, about 70 percent of students take the SAT, down from 75 percent last year. 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.

Yes, many states have a far smaller percentage of students taking the SATs, which may hurt Georgia's chances to reach the top. But 46th? Is that really worth celebrating?

Crawling out of the cellar is noteworthy. But pomp and circumstance isn't appropriate until Georgia makes significant gains in student achievement.

At least we can take some solace in the good news that came from Gwinnett and Barrow County schools, which topped the statewide average of 1,477 points - Gwinnett (1,541) by its widest margin yet, and Barrow (1,489) for the first time in four years. Students in Buford City Schools (1,469) were slightly below the state average. The Gwinnett district also exceeded the national average of 1,518.

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