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SAT scores were not good news despite spin
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The annual release of SAT scores always demands a bit of creative writing by a state leadership that rose to power on the promise of improved performance. Georgia’s scores remain far too low, and the progress far too slow, so the governor and state school superintendent thumb through their thesauruses for new ways to disguise the fact that little has changed.
Gov. Sonny Perdue sent out a press release announcing that Georgia “held steady,” playing down the fact that what we’re holding onto is 46th place. School Superintendent Kathy Cox issued a release noting that “Georgia’s high school seniors kept pace with the nation.” However, the rest of the nation started ahead of us; the national SAT average is 1511, 39 points higher than Georgia’s average score.
Perdue says the state is taking steps to improve scores, such as “offering free online SAT prep courses and increased access to rigorous Advanced Placement courses.” He doesn’t mention that four out of 10 high school students aren’t in class long enough to take advantage of those programs. They drop out.
Cox notes that Georgia students continue to struggle more than their national peers on math, but promises, “I am confident that the state’s new math curriculum is the answer.” (The new curriculum — modeled after Japanese standards — will help, although teachers are complaining that they’ve had insufficient training on the vastly different methods of teaching math and are being forced to learn as they go.)
What will help is a comprehensive game plan to reform Georgia schools, and that doesn’t exist.
Perdue has not made education a priority, perhaps intimidated by how disastrous such a focus turned out to be for his predecessor Roy Barnes. The ambitious Barnes reforms disappeared with the former governor. The few that did survive have slowly been undone by the Republican majority in the General Assembly.
Perdue’s first act as governor was the restoration of tenure laws, which Barnes had abolished to give school systems more agility to remove ineffective teachers from the classroom. (That decision, said Senate President Pro Tem Eric Johnson, R-Savannah, this week, may be the “biggest mistake” the GOP has made since assuming power.)
The state’s leadership has not expanded pre-k to 3-year-olds or reshaped high schools, which continue to operate as they did 40 years ago, when it was accepted that many kids in rural areas would not graduate. Those kids had family farms and mill jobs waiting for them. Now, they have street corners and the DQ parking lot.
Contrast Perdue’s education platforms with those of Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, who has called for free education for every Massachusetts resident from age 3 through community college. Patrick has said, “Everything is on the table.”
The problem in Georgia is that there’s nothing on the table except weak excuses for why our SAT scores continue to lag.
Yes, the SAT is just one test, but it confirms what all the other national tests tell us: We have to do better.

— The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Aug. 27
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