Georgia slips on SAT, remains 46th in U.S.

ATLANTA - Georgia's average SAT score this year was still 46th in the nation, according to figures released Tuesday by the College Board.

And that's the good news. The bad news is that both Georgia students and their counterparts across the nation scored lower than last year's crop of seniors.

Members of Georgia's class of 2007 posted an average score of 1,472 on the SAT, which tests students in reading, writing and math, well below the national average score of 1,511.

State Schools Superintendent Kathy Cox put the best face she could on the numbers, noting that while Georgia's score fell five points from last year, the national average plummeted by seven points.

"Georgia's high school seniors kept pace with the nation ... which is good news," she said. "Of course, we won't be satisfied until Georgia is a leader in SAT performance."

The College Board discourages drawing conclusions from state-by-state comparisons of SAT scores, in part because of large differences in the percentage of students who take the test.

High-participation states test a higher percentage of students who are not headed for college than states that reserve the test for those who need it as part of the college application process.

About 69 percent of Georgia seniors took part in this year's SAT, the nation's 13th-highest participation rate.

Gov. Sonny Perdue said state policy is to make the SAT as accessible to all students as possible. To help accomplish that goal, the state offers free online SAT prep courses.

"By increasing the number of students who take the SAT, we are increasing the number of students who may pursue a post-secondary education, hopefully in Georgia," the governor said in a prepared statement.

"They're looking at that HOPE scholarship," added Tim Callahan, spokesman for the 69,000-member Professional Association of Georgia Educators.

Both participation rates and test scores were particularly high among Georgia's minority students.

More than 26 percent of this year's test takers were black, the highest participation of any state. The percentage of Hispanic students taking the test rose more than 17 percent over last year.

Also, Georgia's black students averaged just one point below the national average, while Hispanic test takers scored significantly higher than their counterparts across the country.

Math, however, continued to be a sore spot. Georgia students fell 20 points below the national average on the math portion of the SAT.

Cox said the math curriculum overhaul she has begun is the solution.

The new curriculum is in place in Georgia middle schools and will be rolled out in the high schools starting next year with the ninth grade.

"The (math) curriculum will be helpful," Callahan said. "But it's not a panacea. It's going to require hard work."