State scores improve on old SAT. Too early to tell how Georgia fared on new version.

I debated sharing the state's SAT scores for the graduating class of 2016 as I didn't want to add to the confusion over the new test vs. the old test, but there is good news about a rise in Georgia scores.

On the old SAT -- last given in January of this year and based on a 2,400 scale -- Georgia students increased their scores in the three sections. The average was 1459, up nine points from 2015, with the biggest increase in math at five points, from 485 to 490.

Georgia still trails the national average of 1484 -- 494 average in critical reading, 508 in math and 482 in writing, which is now optional in the new SAT.

Now, the caveats. The College Board introduced a revamped SAT in March and has not provided school or district results for the new SAT for the Class of 2016 due to low participation. Keep in mind a tiny number of seniors would have taken the new SAT since it was only introduced in March when the vast majority are long past taking college admissions exams and receiving admissions decisions.

So, it is very hard to compare or ponder trends in the data released in this College Board report, which offers its own caveats:

As in previous years, these annual results include SAT participation and performance data by graduating cohort; that is, seniors who took the SAT at least once before graduating from high school in 2016.

However, the transition from the old SAT to the new SAT in spring 2016 makes it difficult to report trends over time. Here’s why:

Performance data for the class of 2016 are based on the old SAT, because the majority of students who graduated this year took the old test.

Because students started taking the new SAT in March, this year’s performance data set for the class of 2016 only goes through January 2016—the last time the old SAT was offered sets by graduating cohort reflect testing through June (the 2011–2015 reports) or March (the 1996–2010 reports) of senior year.

The new SAT was taken by more juniors than seniors. (The results for the class of 2017 will be shared in next year’s results).

Therefore, we advise against comparing SAT results for the class of 2016 to those of  SAT data sets by graduating cohort because the total population of students is defined differently.

Education Week tries to make sense of the numbers if you want to delve deeper. And the AJC has created a handy-dandy SAT database so you can see how your school performed.

With that, here is the state Department of Education statement on the SAT performance of the class of 2016:

Georgia students increased their scores on every section of the traditional SAT in 2016. On the new SAT, a redesigned test with a different scoring system, Georgia students outperformed the national average, and ranked 36th in the nation. A total of 69,922 students in the class of 2016 took the SAT (old or new) at least once.

On the “old” SAT, Georgia’s class of 2016 recorded a mean composite score of 1459 – up nine points since 2015, when the mean score was 1450. Mean scores increased from 490 to 493 for critical reading, 485 to 490 for math, and 475 to 476 for writing.

Some students in Georgia’s class of 2016 took the redesigned SAT, which scores students in evidence-based reading and writing (ERW) and math. On the new SAT, Georgia students recorded a mean total score of 976 – outperforming the national mean of 972.

Georgia students’ mean reading and writing (ERW) score was 498, with a mean math score of 478.

“I am pleased to see the hard work of Georgia’s teachers, students, parents, and partners in education paying off,” State School Superintendent Richard Woods said. “This is just one measure of achievement, but it’s a signal that more students are prepared for the future, and that’s something to celebrate. As we continue to realign our focus and pursue policies that prepare children to learn, live, and lead in the future, I believe we’ll see continued increases in SAT scores and other indicators.”

On the PSAT/NMSQT and PSAT 10, 40,330 Georgia eleventh graders took the test and recorded a mean total score of 1030 – higher than the national mean of 1009. Georgia juniors recorded a mean score of 519 in evidence-based reading and writing and 510 in math, compared to the national mean of 507 in ERW and 502 in math.

The College Board redesigned the SAT to make it more straightforward and connected to classroom learning. Some of the changes reflected in the new SAT include removing the guessing penalty, focusing on words students will use in college and careers, and making the essay optional.

This year’s new SAT data cannot be compared to that of previous years because the redesigned SAT is a different assessment from the old SAT. Moreover, the scale that has been established for the SAT Suite of Assessments is a new scale.

There will be no surprises in this list of top scoring high schools. Here are the schools and their scores on the old 2,400 scale:

1. Gwinnett School of Math Science and Technology, Gwinnett County, 1870

2. Northview High School, Fulton County, 1810

3. Johns Creek High School, Fulton County, 1730

4. Walton High School, Cobb County, 1730

5. Alpharetta High School, Fulton County, 1714

6. Chattahoochee High School, Fulton County, 1709

7. Columbus High School, Muscogee County, 1687

8. Cambridge High School, Fulton County, 1678

9. DeKalb School of the Arts, DeKalb County, 1670

10. Savannah Arts Academy, Savannah 1668

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About the Author

Maureen Downey
Maureen Downey
Maureen Downey has written editorials and opinion pieces about local, state and federal education policy since the 1990s.