Kennesaw Mountain, Walton, Sprayberry and Campbell high schools reached their target scores. Only 14 schools set goals.
Overall, the Cobb School District reported an average score of 1520, short of its target of 1544, set in the Strategic Plan.
Kennesaw Mountain administrators attributed their success not to SAT-specific preparation but rather to rigorous classroom instruction, including encouraging students to take Advanced Placement classes.
“One of our school goals is reading across the curriculum, and the ability to read critically is
certainly a component of the SAT,” said Principal Kevin Daniel, whose students increased their scores by 34 points to 1572 and exceeded their target of 1557 by 15 points.
“The staff works in collaborative teams to incorporate reading strategies in their content areas. Also, math and English teachers teach skills that directly relate to the SAT and often include SAT practice items in their classes.”
They also work with Kaplan to offer a free SAT practice test to all students each semester, which allows the school to provide feedback to students and their parents about their test performance.
Walton Principal Judy McNeill said her schools’ SAT score is a result of students and staff’s hard work.
Walton reported an 18-point increase in 2012, up from 1725 in 2011 to 1743, in addition to exceeding their target of 1723 by 20 points.
“What prepares them for the SAT is that they have rigor and have learned the material throughout the year and know how to apply, because the SAT is based more on ability,” she said.
Within each teacher’s curriculum are exercises from the online SAT prep program.
She said 628 students took the test in 2012, the most in Cobb Schools’ district.
“It’s just the culture of the Walton students that they want to take the SAT,” she said. “We encourage all the students to take the SAT to open options for them.”
Sprayberry students recorded an average of 1495 in 2012, outscoring the target of 1480 by 15 points and increasing over their 2011 score by 20 points.
At Campbell, last year’s seniors improved their score by 19 points from 1439 in 2011 to 1458 in 2012 and exceeded the target score of 1445 by 13 points.
While not all schools met their targets this year, principals still have something to be proud of.
Hillgrove Principal Dr. Robert Shaw said his students’ 2012 score of 1528 was 58 points higher than the 2011 score. The 2011-12 target score was 1542.
“Improving the performance of our students on the SAT and ACT has been a goal of ours and of the district for awhile, and our hope is that our efforts are paying off,” he said. “More than any other test students take, a good score on the SAT can create opportunities for kids, and that is what we are all about.”
While he couldn’t attribute the score increase to any one thing, he said a Cobb Foundation Grant and a Hillgrove PTSA Grant were used exclusively to help students improve their SAT performance.
“Since so many SAT classes and workshops already seemed to be focused on the high-achieving students, we worked with some of our ‘middle-of-the-road’ students who were given a pretest,” he said. “The Hillgrove counselors used the data from the pre-test to provide targeted remediation and SAT instruction.”
They are also working to include some online SAT prep into the curriculum for the American Literature classes, are trying to implement an SAT prep class during the school day and have an “SAT Word of the Day” as part of the morning announcements.
“While this will not help one student score higher on the test by itself, the students do hear, every morning, about the test through the SAT Word of the Day,” Shaw said.
North Cobb Principal Dr. Phillip Page, whose students’ scored an average of 1426 — 12 points lower than the target and 22 points lower than their 2011 score — said they need to find ways to better prepare his test-takers for the exam.
“We believe first-time test-takers, in particular, are ill-prepared for the exam,” he said. “Our school needs to continue to find means to educate students on preparation options and provide those options where possible.”
Allatoona High School did not and has never set a target, but principal Scott Bursmith is satisfied with his students’ 21-point gain. Students scored an average of 1495, up from 1474 last year.
“Our goal was continued improvement in SAT scores,” he said, attributing that increase to programs like Project 2400, a program in partnership between the Cobb Chamber of Commerce and Cobb Schools to help enhance student SAT scores.
“Students participating in Project 2400 have an average increase of over 200 points in their scores,” he said.
However, in May the Cobb school board reduced funding for Project 2400 by half this school year and completely in 2014 because of the FY13 $62 million deficit. It would save about $63,000.
Superintendent Dr. Michael Hinojosa said the Cobb Schools Foundation, which has been given the responsibility of finding funds to continue the program, is having trouble doing that.
Marietta High School principal Leigh Colburn said her school don’t set a specific target but look to see about a 3 percent increase annually.
“SAT scores are really hard to predict because it’s a different cohort and they re-norm the test every year,” Colburn said.
This year, Marietta High’s overall score dropped 0.9 percent, or 23 points, from 1482 in 2011 to 1459 in 2012.
“The community needs to understand that this is a 2400-point scale,” she said. “The College Board defines any shift of 100 points as not being significant.”
She said her No. 1 priority is increasing the rigor in the classroom and participation in rigorous classes and to close the achievement gap between minorities on the SATs.
In order to do this, Marietta High offers SAT prep classes as electives, in addition to giving each student access to SAT prep classes online using Study Island and through their Community Schools program.
Patrick Winter with the University of Georgia’s undergraduate admissions office said that while it’s important for students to perform well on the SAT, standardized test scores are just one element of the college admissions process.
“At most colleges, grades and curriculum pursued in high school will almost always outweigh an ACT/SAT score in the importance of determining admissibility,” he said.
They also take into consideration a student’s extracurricular activities, writing ability, letters of recommendation, achievements in high school and trends in grades, whether they go up and down.
UGA received 19,000 applications for 4,900 spots this fall, Winter said.
The SAT is designed to predict a student’s potential for success in the first year of college. It tests students’ knowledge and application of reading, writing and math. Scores are good for five years.
The test is given multiple times a year at various locations and costs $50, with fee waivers available. More than 370,000 students and 27 percent, or 19,775 students, in Georgia received waivers this year.