Only 1 in 3 Georgia High School Graduates Who Took the SAT Prepared for College Courses; AP Participation and Scores Improve

September 26, 2013

According to an annual College Board report released today, only 33% of 2013 Georgia public high school graduates who took the SAT are likely to succeed in first-year college courses.[1]  The report also shows that Georgia’s average SAT score for tested public school graduates decreased by 3 points since 2012 and lags the national average score by 40 points.  On a positive note, the number of high school students taking Advanced Placement (AP) exams has increased over the past five years, as has the percentage of exams scoring 3 or higher.[2] Still, gaps in participation and pass rates remain between racial/ethnic subgroups.

To determine college readiness, the College Board sets benchmark SAT scores that indicate whether a student is likely to succeed in college courses.  The benchmark score is 1550 out of 2400.[3]  The College Board developed the benchmarks by analyzing a representative sample of students’ actual performance in four-year colleges.[4]  Students who meet the benchmark have a 65% chance of earning a grade point average of B minus or higher during the first year of college.

While only 33% of Georgia public high school students met the benchmark in all 3 subjects, 43% of 2013 Georgia public high school graduates met the benchmark in critical reading, as did 42% in mathematics.  Only 36% met the benchmark in writing.  The data show sizable achievement gaps by race/ethnicity.  Only 13% of black students and 26% of Hispanic students met the overall benchmarks, compared to 45% of white and 57% of Asian students.

The average score of 2013 Georgia public high school graduates was 1434, 40 points lower than the national average of 1474.  Both Georgia’s average score and the national average fell by 3 points since 2012.  Over the past ten years, the Georgia’s public school average scores in critical reading and math have declined by 6 and 8 points, respectively.[5]  However, this decline is less than the national decline of 13 points in critical reading and 11 points in math over that period. 

Seventy-one percent of 2013 public school graduates in Georgia took the SAT, which is higher than the national average of 43%.  This is down 5 percentage points from 2012, when 76% of Georgia graduates took the exam.[6]  In general, as the percentage of graduates in a state increases, the state’s average SAT score decreases.  Of the sixteen states that test more than 60% of students, Georgia’s average score falls below 10 states but is higher than 4 states and the District of Columbia.[7]

In 2013, 74,293 Georgia public high school students took more than 125,000 AP exams with a pass rate of 53.3%.  Passing is considered earning a score of 3 or higher out of 5 possible points.  Over the past 5 years, the number of AP exams in Georgia has risen steadily, and the pass rate has risen 1.6 percentage points over that time.

While increased participation and pass rates are a positive sign, a sizable gap between racial/ethnic groups still remains. As seen in the table below, Asian and white students comprise a larger share of AP test takers than public high school enrollment, while black students and Hispanic students comprise a lower share. For example, black students make up 37.9% of Georgia high school students but make up only 22.6% of AP test takers.

Figure 1: Comparing Public School Enrollment & AP Test Taker Demographics[8]

A gap also exists in pass rates. Only 26.5% of exams taken by black students received a score of 3 or higher, while 65.9% of exams taken by Asian students and 61.8% of exams taken by white students received the passing grade.

In sum, while the average SAT score in Georgia has risen over the past 10 years, Georgia students still lag far behind the national average. Only one third of 2013 public high school graduates who took the SAT are ready for college courses.  More Georgia students are taking and passing AP exams than ever, but gaps by race/ethnicity still persist.

College Board Press Release

2013 SAT Report on College & Career Readiness

Georgia’s 2013 State Profile Report

[1] Data on benchmarks are only available for public school students.  For consistency, all numbers presented in this update are for public school students only.

[2] AP courses provide college-level coursework in a high school setting.  Students who receive a 3 or higher (3+) on the course-specific AP exam may receive college credit for that course.   Not all students completing an AP course choose to sit for the exam.

[3] College Board also sets benchmarks of 500 in each subject of the test.

[4] For more information about the College Board’s methodology, access the research report here.

[5] The College Board did not introduce the writing section until 2005.

[6] 2012 figures are from the 2012 version of this report, “The SAT Report on College & Career Readiness: 2012.”

[7] Georgia’s score is higher than the average score in Rhode Island, Maine, Idaho, Delaware, and the District of Columbia.  It is lower than the average score in New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Virginia, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Maryland, New York, and Florida.

[8] Percent of public high school enrollment is derived from the Spring 2013 Full-time Equivalent counts.  The numbers do not sum to 100% because the category of “two or more races” is not included because no comparable category for AP data exists. The percent of AP test takers also does not sum to 100% because “other” and “no response” categories are not included because no comparable category exists for percent of enrollment. College Board race/ethnicity is also self-reported and may not match directly to race/ethnicity in GaDOE enrollment counts.