We don't mean to keep making a mountain out of the SAT score molehill, but it seems the more the subject is discussed, the worse the whole thing looks.
Local commentators jabbed Richmond County schools relentlessly after they belatedly admitted their increase in SAT scores was manufactured by restricting who could take the test. The Atlanta media got in on the act, calling the score hike "phony."
In spite of the dubious scores, Gov. Sonny Perdue helicoptered into Hephzibah High School to celebrate that school's 113-point increase in SATs. He got testy himself when a reporter asked him about the school's restrictions on the number of students allowed to put the county's code on their SAT.
All along, local school officials have decried the SAT-based comparisons. It's bad enough when one unique group of students is graded against students from the previous year, but to compare one school -- and school system -- to another based on the SAT really is apples vs. oranges.
Fortunately, Georgia's new end-of-course tests provide a great equalizer for such comparisons.
Hephzibah's SAT score that brought the governor to town is 1,035, higher than every Columbia County school except Lakeside. So if Hephzibah's SAT gains really reflect increased learning power, the end-of-course test scores should be high, too, right?
Wrong. Scores released last week show Hephzibah students performed worse on every measurement than every Columbia County school, with the exception of the test for ninth-grade literature where only Harlem students scored lower.
The big difference, of course, is that all students are required to take end-of-course tests; unlike the SAT, Richmond County's school system can't hide the poorly performing students and grade only the high-achievers.
Comparisons based on the SAT really aren't valid, especially when individual systems can manipulate the test-takers. And Columbia County still has some rough spots among its students' own scores. But the end-of-course tests show as long as there are fair numbers to compare, our schools will hold their own.
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