Here’s a few things to know about the results:
Metro Atlanta districts tout performances
The Cobb County School District issued a statement noting its total average score of 1104 was higher than the results in DeKalb, Fulton and Gwinnett counties, as well as in Atlanta and Marietta.
The Cobb school board chairman, Brad Wheeler, attributed it to classroom basics. “Our schools are focused on teaching and learning and helping each individual student succeed. That is why Cobb students continue to outscore their peers around the metro, state, and nation,” he said in a statement.
The district didn’t mention the City Schools of Decatur. Decatur’s average of 1147 points was 43 points higher than Cobb’s. The new superintendent in Decatur, Gyimah Whitaker, credited school culture. “CSD has consistently strived to create a nurturing learning environment that fosters academic growth and personal development,” she said in a statement.
The Georgia pecking order
Neither Cobb nor Decatur scored at the top in Georgia. That distinction went to Forsyth County. Its total average score of 1177 was 16 points higher than the next highest-scoring Georgia district, the Buford City Schools. Next was Oconee County, near Athens, then Decatur and then Fayette County.
Gwinnett County, the largest system in Georgia, scored outside the top 10.
Larger districts’ scores are based on the results of multiple schools, with lower scorers pulling down the average. It’s the reason Decatur, with only one high school, scored near the top as a district despite a high school score that didn’t break the top 20 statewide.
A high school in Gwinnett, meanwhile, scored the highest in the state.
The Gwinnett School of Mathematics, Science and Technology, a perennial high-flyer, had a total average score of 1393 — 130 points higher than second-ranked Northview High in Fulton, 138 points above Walton High in Cobb, 139 points above Lambert High in Forsyth and 154 higher than the fifth-ranked Alliance Academy for Innovation, also in Forsyth.
The total SAT score comprises two components: Gwinnett’s STEM school outperformed by a wide margin in the math component; it also had the best reading and writing score in Georgia.
The Georgia DOE noted that half of the seniors who graduated last school year took the SAT, which is about the same proportion as the prior year’s class.
Georgia released the average scores for school districts and for individual high schools, including the number of test-takers. But the agency did not include their participation rates. Average scores tend to fall as the participation rate rises.
Do the scores matter?
More than 2,000 colleges and universities no longer require applicants to submit an ACT or SAT score. That’s about 90% of U.S. bachelor’s degree-granting schools, according to the National Center for Fair & Open Testing, which has been keeping a tally since fewer than three dozen campuses were test optional.
The University System of Georgia halted the test requirement in 2020 because of the challenges in administering the exams during the pandemic. Students seeking to enroll at all but three of Georgia’s public universities won’t need to take the ACT or SAT college exam to gain admission for the 2024-2025 school year. Those three schools are Georgia Tech, the University of Georgia and Georgia College & State University.
What if the tests go away?
The SAT’s competitor, ACT, argues that its tests are like a trustworthy yardstick that show the true height of student performance in the face of grade inflation.
The organization issued a paper this summer that said high school grade-point averages rose from 2010 to 2022, particularly in math, even as ACT scores were flat or fell. The paper concludes that test scores should play an ongoing role in college admissions and scholarship award decisions.
Author Edgar I. Sanchez, a lead research scientist at ACT, said in an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that test scores can be an economic leveler in the admissions process. Students from wealthier households can afford consultants to help with letters and other elements of an application, which become more important in the absence of testing, he said.