Richmond County had the highest three-year gains on the SAT this year among Georgia's 12 largest school districts.
Scores in Richmond County jumped 41 points between 2001 and 2003, from 950 to 991. Cobb County had the next largest gain, rising 20 points to 1,038. Six districts had three-year declines, including DeKalb County, where scores dipped five points to 928.
Richmond County Superintendent Charles Larke attributes the achievement to SAT preparatory classes, such as the Triumph and Princeton Review, in which teachers provide strategies for mastering the test.
The prep classes seem to be working at Lucy C. Laney High School, where scores jumped 106 points in two years.
"It makes us feel like we are proving ourselves to the community," said senior Candace Gonder, who is enrolled in the Princeton Review class.
Classmate Kennie Eberhart wants to become the first in his family to go to college. But not just any college. He wants to go to Duke University, a competitive private college. He said he hopes to get a 1,200 with the help of Princeton Review teacher Ilishe Mikos.
Last week, Ms. Mikos provided strategies on plugging in variables to answer math questions.
She called it "taking their psychobabble word problems and turning them into simple math." Students called it learning tricks.
"It makes all the problems seem easier," Kennie said. "She breaks down the whole test."
Richard Dunn, a Laney teacher and SAT coach, said the Richmond County Board of Education did its research and found the programs that have been successful. While Triumph classes were held in previous years, the Princeton Review class was added in 2002.
"I've noticed the kids seem to focus more," he said. "We have a plan now."
Laney, whose students now average 956 on the test, has set its goal at 1,025.
In Richmond County, Dr. Larke said he has three goals: to exceed the state average - 984 this year; to exceed 1,000; and to exceed the national average - 1,026 this year.
"We have reached one goal - beating the state average," he said. "Next year, we expect to meet our second goal, which is to score more than 1,000 points on the SAT. We hope to beat the national average in 2005."
The district is already prepping students for the new SAT, which includes a writing assessment. Also, Dr. Larke wants to begin giving students the PSAT in the ninth grade.
"The earlier we administer the test, the better students should score when they become seniors and are college-bound," he said.
Reach Greg Rickabaugh at (706) 828-3851 or firstname.lastname@example.org.