Columbia County Schools Superintendent Tommy Price doesn't like comparing the SAT scores of his system to Richmond County's. However, he said, comparisons are inevitable, so he wants to make sure the public gets the right picture.
In a recent school board meeting, Mr. Price noted the media attention given to Westside High School, in Augusta, for placing sixth in the state with an SAT score of 1,138. He also noted that the school tested only 63 students, which he said is 37 percent of the school's senior class.
"If we tested only 37 percent of our seniors, the top kids, it gives us something to better compare our school scores to Westside's score," he said in a phone interview. "Well, every one of our schools would exceed Westside if you took the top 37 percent of student scores."
Lakeside High's average for its top 37 percent of test-takers on the 2005 SAT is 1,285. Harlem High is second in the county, with 1,187, followed by Greenbrier with 1,176 and Evans with 1,155.
Columbia County posted an average SAT score of 1,032 and tested 957 students. Richmond County's SAT average was 1,020, but it received credit for testing only 628 students.
Richmond County's score is 20 points higher than in 2004 and is its 11th increase in 11 years, but the school determines who gets the school code.
Before students receive an SAT reporting code, which identifies what schools they attend, they must take the PSAT, log at least 10 hours of prep time with an advocate adviser and complete a long list of classes. The score of a student who does not get the code won't be in a school's average score.
"I don't think we should mask our scores," Columbia County school board member Roxanne Whitaker said. "I don't want to say they're masking them. They just have their own way of tooting their horn."
Despite Columbia County school officials' aversion to denying reporting codes to any student wanting to take the SAT, state school officials are showing indifference, Mr. Price said.
"I don't think the state is overly concerned about the disparity," he said. "Their eye is more on seeing the scores rise, whatever it takes."
Dr. Carol Rountree, Richmond County's director of guidance, testing and research, said she had no reaction to Mr. Price's calculations.
"The only comparison we want to make is how we compare year to year," Dr. Rountree said. "We feel that our greatest disservice to students is to send them in to take the test without preparation."