Tuesday, October 31, 2023

College Entrance Exam Scores At Oconee County Schools In 2023 Comparable To Those In 2022 But Graduation Rate Fell Slightly

***Gaps Surface Between System’s Two High Schools***

Data recently released by Oconee County Schools show that college entrance test scores systemwide were largely unchanged in 2023 from a year earlier, and that the graduation rate fell slightly for the second year in a row.

The data also show that in each case--ACT scores, SAT Scores, and Graduation Rates--North Oconee High School students scored higher than students at Oconee County High School.

North Oconee High School students, in fact, showed slight improvements in ACT and SAT scores and in Graduation Rates from 2022 to 2023, while Oconee County High School students showed declines in both test scores and in Graduation Rates.

Students at both schools and systemwide continued to perform well in comparison with the state and other nearby school systems.

In its news releases on Sept. 25 and Oct. 20, Oconee County Schools reported correctly that its students ranked third in the state on both the ACT and SAT scores and OCS was the top school system in Northeast Georgia on these measures.

On Oct. 10 Oconee County Schools sent out news release reporting correctly that its graduation rate for the class of 2023 was the highest for systems with 500 or more graduates in the state as well as the top system in Northeast Georgia in terms of graduation rate.

In a news release on Oct. 16, Oconee County Schools also reported that the Oconee County Board of Education has been awarded Exemplary Board Status for 2023 by the Georgia School Boards Association, a ranking it has held since 2015.

That status also is held by 66 other school boards in the state. The state has 181 school districts.

News Releases

The new releases on college entrance exams and graduation rates, which are on the Oconee County Schools web Home Page, report the 2023 data and provide state, regional, and national comparisons.

“Oconee County Schools students registered an average composite score of 24.0 on the ACT to stand No. 1 in Northeast Georgia and No. 3 in the state,” the most recent of the news releases on Oct. 20 stated.

“The Class of 2023 posted scores of 24.5 at North Oconee High School and 23.1 at Oconee County High School,” according to the release. “The state average was 21.3, while the national figure was 19.5. Georgia students topped the national average for the seventh straight year.”

“Oconee County Schools’ four-year graduation rate for 2023 was 96.8 percent,” the Oct. 10 release said. “OCS held the state's highest figure for systems with 500 or more graduates as well as the No. 1 rate in Northeast Georgia.”

“North Oconee High School recorded a graduation rate of 98.6 percent and Oconee County High School posted a figure of 94.7 percent,” according to the release.

“Oconee County Schools earned an SAT composite score of 1149 for the 2023 testing period, well above state and national mean scores,” the Sept. 25 news release stated.

“OCS ranked third in the state among all school systems and was the only county system in the Top 10 in Northeast Georgia,” according to the release.

“North Oconee posted a mean score of 1159 and Oconee County had a mean of 1136 among a combined 503 test takers,” according to the release. “The state mean was 1045 and the national mean was 1003, marking the sixth straight year that the Georgia figure was higher.”

SAT Data

In order to examine the trends in ACT and SAT scores and in the high school graduation rates I downloaded data back through 2017 from the Georgia Department of Education for the test scores and back through 2013 for graduation rates.

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The graduation rate data are available back through 2012, but the test scores earlier than 2020 are hidden and difficult to retrieve.

Susan Stancil, Chief Academic Officer for Oconee County Schools, reported on the SAT scores to the Oconee County Board of Education at its work session on Oct. 2.

In my post on Oct. 8, I reported that 2023 SAT scores for students at the system’s two high schools combined showed little change from the year before.

I reported that the trend data show improvements in SAT scores from 2017 to 2018, slight declines from 2018 to 2019, and then a dramatic drop in overall scores from 2019 to 2020 and 2021, following the COVID-19 pandemic and its disruption of instruction.

System wide scores increased from 2021 to 2022 and then again just slightly from 2022 to 2023.

Scores for Oconee County High School and North Oconee High School test takers were closely matched in 2017, 2018, and 2019, but from that point on North Oconee High School students outperformed Oconee County High School students.

The gap was closing from 2021 to 2022 but increased sharply in 2023, with North Oconee High School test takers outperforming Oconee County High School students by 23 points.

Systemwide, Oconee County’s 1149 score (503 test takers) follows the 1177 score of Forsyth County (2,828 test takers), and the 1161 score for Buford City Schools (258 test takers).

ACT Data

The ACT data are similar to the SAT data in some ways and different in others.

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Systemwide, ACT scores fell from 2019 to 2020, but, as with the SAT data, they actually increased in that year for North Oconee High School students who took the test.

The ACT scores at both schools improved from 2020 to 2021.

The ACT scores at the two schools were very similar in 2022, but the scores for the two schools diverged in 2023.

The Composite Score difference between the two schools in 2023 was 1.4 point, with North Oconee reporting the average score of 24.5 and Oconee County High School reporting the average score of 23.1.

Systemwide in 2023, Oconee County’s score of 24.0 (198 test takers) is below the 25.2 score of students at Buford City Schools (89 test takers) and the 24.4 at Forsyth County Schools (1,663 test takers).

Graduation Rates

Georgia calculates the four-year adjusted cohort graduation rate as required by federal law.

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This rate is the number of students who graduate in four years with a regular high school diploma, divided by the number of students who form the adjusted cohort for the graduating class.

Students who are entering the ninth grade for the first time form a cohort that is subsequently adjusted by adding any students who transfer into the cohort during the next three years and subtracting any students who transfer out.

Graduation rates increased consistently for Oconee County Schools from 2013 to 2017 and then fell sharply at Oconee County High School in 2018.

The rate dropped at Oconee County High School in 2020, following COVID’s disruption, but then improved to 98.9 at North Oconee High School in 2021 and 98.3 at Oconee County High School that year.

Scores fell just slightly at both schools from 2021 to 2022.

Systemwide those scores fell by 1.1 percentage point from 2022 to 2023, but that drop masks a slight increase at North Oconee High School and drop of 2.7 percentage points at Oconee County High School.

Oconee County’s systemwide graduation rate of 96.8 with 634 graduates was just ahead of the 96.5 percent rate of Glynn County Schools with 796 graduates and one point ahead of the 95.8 percent rate of Forsyth County Schools with 4,002 graduates.

Board Award

A news release of Oct. 16 announced that “The Oconee County Board of Education has been awarded Exemplary Board status for 2023 by the Georgia School Boards Association.”

“Oconee County is extremely fortunate to have a Board of Education that prioritizes students and teachers,” Superintendent Jason L. Branch is quoted in the news release as saying.

“The Board’s strong governance fosters a culture that advances all facets of learning and achievement,” the quote continues. “The members work collectively and individually to provide the district unwavering leadership and support.”

The Oconee County Board of Education will be honored formally at the Georgia School Boards Association/Georgia School Superintendents Association Annual Conference on Dec. 1 in Atlanta.

In Fiscal Year 2023, there were six boards ranked as Quality Boards, six ranked as Distinguished Boards, and 67 ranked as Exemplary Boards, according to the Georgia School Board Association web site.

School Boards apply for the designation by filling out a template to demonstrate vision, training, and fiscal responsibility of the Board.

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