ATLANTA - Georgia's Board of Education agreed Thursday to pay for SAT preparation tests for all 10th-graders in hopes of raising the average score to 1,000 by the year 2001.
That still wouldn't put Georgia students above the national average, but would almost surely nudge the state up from its 49th place ranking on the closely watched Scholastic Assessment Test.
"That is a goal this board believes we can achieve," said Board Chairman Johnny Isakson, who introduced the proposal.
The board's promise to buy 89,000 preparatory exams, known as the PSAT, is the latest bid by state officials to help Georgia climb out of the SAT basement.
Only South Carolina's students consistently rate lower than Georgia on the college entry exam.
Earlier this year, the General Assembly agreed to fund a computerized SAT preparation program. The producers of the program, Stanford Testing System, Inc., guaranteed a 100-point increase in SAT scores in one year, though many educators are skeptical of the claim.
Georgia's average last year was 961 out of a possible 1,600 on the math and English test required by many colleges for entrance. The national average was 1,013.
Georgia officials generally point to the fact that the state has a large population of poor residents and huge percentage of students taking the test to explain the low scores.
In some states with higher average SAT scores, only top, college-bound students take the test.
The board - at a cost of $750,000 a year - wants all 10th-graders to be able to take the PSAT before going on to the SAT in 11th and/or 12th grade.
Mr. Isakson said Georgia students that had taken the PSAT before the SAT scored 135 points higher last year than those that didn't.
"We've raised the standards and their expectations ... if we also give them help to do their best, we will have gone full cycle in really doing something meaningful," Mr. Isakson said.
The board plans to ask the General Assembly for the money to pay for PSATs this fall in the fiscal 1997-98 mid-year budget and then seek continued funding next year.