Originally created 09/01/01

Impressive SAT gains



Pupils and teachers of Richmond County, take a bow. For the sixth year in a row, students have increased their scores on the SAT exam. This year's 23-point jump is something to really cheer about.

For that matter, most high school upperclassmen in these parts can take a bow. Several school districts in the area made important test score gains - Aiken County students passed the 1,000 mark, and Allendale students jumped by 24 points, to 830, their highest ever and a real turnaround for a school district that has struggled so much that the state had to come in and take it over.

All of these are impressive, especially because these school districts - and many others in Georgia and South Carolina - are still performing below national averages.

Unlike Columbia County, where students exceed the national average by 10 points, most of the other schools in the area have a long way to go before they can say their students are getting an adequate education.

How far do they have to go? Well, schools are not out of the woods just yet. Only the District of Columbia ranks lower than South Carolina.

Oddly, private schools in the Palmetto State didn't help - they hurt the state average by one point, the opposite effect normally found. In most states, private schools have higher SAT scores than their public counterparts. And Georgia schools can only crow about improvements, not about overall scores.

Students are doing better because schools are paying more attention to core curricula. Also, schools and states are getting smarter about preparing students for test taking.

Both states now pay the fee for 10th graders to take the PSAT, a preparatory exam.

Other factors are playing a role. School districts, such as Richmond County, are beginning to teach vocabulary lists that contain words often found on the SATs. There is more attention being paid to what is on the test, and more classes and coaching being made available on weekends and after school.

Critics say the SAT is overrated. But schools must have a standards and assessment component, or they will disintegrate into the free-for-all fads that so often creep into curricula. And the fact remains that the SAT is still one of the best predictors for college success.

Georgia still ranks 49th, and South Carolina is still at 50th. But when you look at the improvements made by schools like Lucy C. Laney High School, which made a 69-point gain, you've got to be encouraged.