For the third year in a row, Oconee County Schools has seen a drop in the average score of its students who have taken the SAT college entrance exam.
The report of the drop in SAT scores followed a report by Oconee County Schools last month of a drop in state Milestone test scores.
In the case of the Milestone scores, the state of Georgia as a whole reported lower scores this year than two years ago, the last year for comparison because the Milestones tests were not takes in 2020.
SAT scores across the state were up markedly in 2021 versus in 2020, however, and they were up in the U.S. as a whole as well.
Performance of students at the system’s two high schools differed, with students who took the SAT at Oconee County High School in 2021 doing better than in 2020 while students at North Oconee High School who took the tests on average did more poorly.
While the scores of Oconee County students did decline, the system's students continued to perform better on the SAT than did students in the state and country as a whole.
Oconee County ranked eighth in the state among school systems with more than 15 students taking the exam.
Oconee County Schools had ranked number three in the state in 2020, number four in 2019, and number two in 2018.
Oconee County Schools sent out its electronic Newsletter on the afternoon of Sept. 22 reporting that “Oconee County Schools has earned a mean SAT composite score of 1133 for the 2021 testing period, well above state and national mean scores.
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“OCS is ranked fifth in the state among county school systems and is the only system ranked in the top 10 in Northeast Georgia," the release continued.
“I commend our recent graduates and current students, as well as their parents and K-12 teachers, for these results – which point to academic excellence, resilience, and preparedness for post-secondary success,” Superintendent Jason L. Branch is quoted as saying.
Oconee County Schools reported the rank of five, rather than eight, because it did not include three city school districts, Decatur City Schools, Buford City Schools, and Thomasville City Schools.
The Newsletter does not report the decline in test scores, but it links to a table that shows test scores going back to 2018, when the test was redesigned. (See note below.) That table shows the drops in scores.
The table also shows that even with the drop in scores of North Oconee High School students and the increase among Oconee County High School test takers, North Oconee High School students outperformed Oconee County High School students in 2021 as they did in 2020.
Number Of Test Takers
I downloaded the data from the Georgia Department of Education web site going back to 2018 and confirmed the data in the table on the Oconee County Schools web site. I also added in the number of test takers, which is reported only for 2021 on the school web site.
I also sorted the data based on average SAT score for all of the schools for which the state Department of Education reports data. In 2021, the state reported the scores of 156 school systems.
Oconee County Schools reported that 459 of its students took the SAT test in 2021. The state data files show that 491 Oconee County students took the SAT in 2020, 472 in 2019, and 441 in 2018.
The number of students who take the test at schools around the state varies greatly, making comparisons among them problematic.
Gwinnett County, which had a mean score of 1132, or just below Oconee County’s 1133, had 5,430 students take the SAT in 2021, compared with Oconee County’s 459.
Despite these differences, Oconee County Schools regularly touts it rankings.
In 2018, Oconee County was outscored only by Forsyth County Schools. In 2019, Decatur City schools, Forsyth County Schools, and Catoosa County Schools outperformed Oconee County Schools.
Last year, only Decatur City Schools and Forsyth County Schools had higher mean scores than Oconee County.
This year, Decatur City Schools, Forsyth County Schools, Buford City Schools, Fayette County School District, Cobb County School District, Catoosa County Schools, and Thomasville City Schools had higher average SAT scores than Oconee County.
The other schools in Northeast Georgia District are Barrow County, Clarke County, Commerce City, Elbert County, Greene County, Jackson County, Jefferson City, Madison County, Morgan County, Oglethorpe County, Social Circle City, and Walton County.
The Clarke County School District ranks 13, and Jefferson City Schools is 15. Clarke County had 157 students take the SAT, and Jefferson City Schools had 154.
Four school systems had between 400 and 500 test takers in 2021, Douglas County Schools, Oconee County Schools, Richmond County Schools, and Muscogee County School District.
Oconee County had the best scores among those four.
The SAT, or Scholastic Aptitude Test, is one of two college admissions tests.
Data from ACT (American College Test), the competitor to the SAT, have not been released yet for 2021.
Oconee County Schools reported slight drops in scores on ACT in 2019 from 2018 and in 2020 from 2019.
The Georgia Department of Education released its Milestones test results for 2021 on Aug. 16, including End of Grade results for Grades 3 to 8 and End of Class results for subjects, mostly from high school.
The test had been suspended in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Students in Oconee County Schools scored lower on 17 of the 25 Milestones measures than they did in July of 2019.
Most dramatic were declines in Algebra 1, American Literature, and U.S. History scores. Scores on Biology also declined, though much less dramatically.
These are high school level classes, so the declines are consistent with the drop in SAT scores.
Note: College Board redesigned the SAT in 2016 for 2017 administration. The scores prior to 2018 are not comparable with those from 2018 and beyond.