Oconee County Schools on Monday released 2023 Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) scores for students at the system’s two high schools, showing little change from the year before.
Scores have improved from 2020 and 2021, when scores had dropped dramatically from the year before the COVID-19 pandemic. SAT scores have not returned to the highpoint from 2018, according to data released on Monday.
The gap in scores between North Oconee High School and Oconee County High School, which first appeared in 2020, persisted in 2023, with Oconee County High School test takers scoring on average 23 points lower than test takers from North Oconee High School.
The gap between the test takers in the two high schools was greater in 2023 than it had been in 2022.
The number of students taking the college entrance tests increased in 2023 and was the largest number taking the tests at the system’s high schools.
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 Monday.
She followed Superintendent Jason Branch, who, in his superintendent report, mentioned the SAT test results but also told the Board that “we have been named the number one county school system in the state of Georgia again this year.”
Branch did not mention the source of the ranking, but Niche, a commercial evaluator of school systems, recently released its 2024 report, ranking Oconee County Schools as the number one county system.
Teaching And Learning Report
Stancil gave her presentation on the SAT scores as part of her Teaching and Leaning Report on Monday.
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She told the Board that “Oconee County Schools earned a mean SAT composite score of 1149, which is well above the state score of 1045 and the national mean score of 1003.”
Stancil presented a chart that showed that the composite score last year had been 1047 and that score had been 1157 in 2019, though she made no reference to those earlier scores.
Stancil then told the Board that the number of Oconee County Schools test takers increased from 488 in 2022 to 503 in 2023.
Oconee County Schools ranked number three in the state in terms of SAT scores, behind Forsyth County Schools and Buford City Schools, according to Stancil’s report.
Last year Oconee County Schools also ranked third, behind Decatur City Schools and Forsyth County Schools.
Stancil said that Oconee County Schools is “ranked number one among all systems in Northeast Georgia.”
“Congratulations to all our students, parents teachers, and administrators on these outstanding results," she said.
No member of the Board commented on the SAT report or asked Stancil about the scores.
Drop In Scores After Pandemic
The data that Stancil provided to the Board showed the trends going back to 2019.
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Those data show that SAT scores for Oconee County Schools test takers dropped markedly in 2020 and 2021, or the years following the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and its disruption of school instruction.
Oconee County Schools dropped to eighth in the state in SAT scores in 2021 after being rated third in 2020 and fourth in 2019. Oconee County Schools has ranked third the last two years.
I have plotted out the data reported to the Board in Teaching and Learning Reports going back to 2017, and they show improvements in 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.
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.
The data also show the drop in test takers at both schools from 2020 to 2021 but an overall growth in test takers across time.
Branch told the Board in his superintendent’s report that “we have the third rated SAT scores in the state for SAT achievement, and Dr. Stancil is going to be talking more about that, so I won't steal too much of her thunder for that.”
Prior to that, Branch had said “we have been named the number one county school system in the state of Georgia again this year. That has happened every year since 2013.”
Branch didn’t indicate who had done the ranking, but Niche has recently released its 2024 rankings of schools, and Oconee County Schools was rated as the second best school district in Georgia, behind Buford City Schools, making Oconee County Schools the best county school district in the state based on Niche ratings.
Oconee County Schools had been rated as the number two district, behind Buford City Schools, in the 2023 ratings by Niche last year as well.
Niche is an American company headquartered in Pittsburgh, Pa., that produces ratings similar to the ratings by U.S. New & World Report for colleges and universities. Niche says it uses federal data, state data, and user-generated reviews to produce its results.
Niche began its ratings in 2013, but I have not been able to find any record of those historical ratings.
I can verify that Oconee County has been the top rated county district by Niche at least since 2020.
Stancil told the Board in her report on Monday that “we had an amazing turnout, that's 500 people, for our community engagement session on September 19th.” That session was advertised as an opportunity for the community to offer guidance for the new Strategic Plan for Oconee County Schools.
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All Board members except Amy Parrish had been in attendance at the meeting at the Civic Center on Sept. 19, where Branch had used the 500 turnout figure as well. An estimated 400 participated in the same session five years ago.
Stancil said that “we're doing our OCS stakeholder surveys right now” and as of Monday 990 persons had responded. That figure had been 267 in the strategic planning process five years ago, she said.
The Board will be asked to adopt a new strategic plan in April, Stancil said.
Fred Ricketson, Director of Facilities, told the Board that construction is now complete on the modifications to Oconee County Primary School, Oconee County Elementary School, and Oconee County High School.
Ricketson said that the concrete pours for the second and third floors of the new Instructional Support Center on North Main Street in Watkinsville are now complete.
“So the shape of the building is really starting to shape up and they continue to do really well there,” Ricketson said.
Construction on the 12-classroom addition to Malcom Bridge Elementary School “is moving along really, really well,” he said. It is scheduled to be completed for the 2024 school year, as is the Instructional Support Center.
The video below is on the Oconee County Schools YouTube Channel.
Branch began his superintendent report at 0:29 in the video.
Stancil began her Teaching and Learning report at 6:09 in the video.
Ricketson began speaking at 16:08.