A Snapshot of High School Academic Achievement in Georgia

January 17, 2014


Following the August education update on K-8 academic achievement, this education update focuses on Georgia’s performance on high school standardized tests from 2009-10 to 2012-13.  Georgia students’ performance on the End-of-Course Tests (EOCT) has generally improved during that time.  However, on national tests, such as the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) and the ACT, Georgia students’ scores still trail the national average and indicate that roughly three-quarters of test takers are not prepared for college. 


Key Findings

  • Georgia’s EOCT performance has improved from 2009-10 to 2012-13.
  • The results of the new CCGPS Coordinate Algebra EOCT showed a sharp decline in math performance from 67% meeting or exceeding standards in Math I in 2011-12 to 39% passing in Coordinate Algebra.
  • The average SAT score is 46 points below the national average (2400 possible points).
  • Georgia’s average ACT score trails the national average by 0.2 points (36 possible points).
  • Georgia’s average ACT and SAT scores have remained flat, while the national average has decreased slightly.
  • 71% of 2013 Georgia public high school graduates took the SAT.  51% of all 2013 Georgia graduates took that ACT.
  • Only one-third of 2013 Georgia public high school graduates who took the SAT and 23% of all 2013 Georgia graduates who took the ACT are prepared for college coursework.
  • To provide a more accurate picture of students’ college and career readiness, Georgia should align its assessments with national measures to ensure its expectations align with all students nationally.


End of Course Tests

After completing certain core courses, high school students must take a Georgia-specific EOCT.[1]  These tests assess student performance and “also provide data to evaluate the effectiveness of classroom instruction at the school, system, and state levels.”[2]  The EOCT comprises 20% of students’ course grade.[3]

The EOCT is administered after completion of the following courses:

  • CCGPS Coordinate Algebra
  • CCGPS Analytic Geometry (beginning Winter 2013)
  • Mathematics II (only 1st time 9th graders before 2012-13)
  • Georgia Performance Standards (GPS) Geometry (only 1st time 9th graders before 2012-13)
  • US History
  • Economics/Business/Free Enterprise
  • Biology
  • Physical Science
  • 9th Grade Literature and Composition
  • American Literature and Composition

With guidance from the Georgia Department of Education (GaDOE) and the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement (GOSA), the State Board of Education, sets the cut scores for “does not meet expectations,” “meets expectations,” and “exceeds expectations.”[4]  Students who either “meet expectations” or “exceed expectations” are considered proficient on Georgia assessments.

Trends in EOCT Performance

To establish trends in EOCT performance, this education update examines EOCT scores from 2009-10 to 2012-13.[5]  On all tests administered in all four years, the percent meets or exceeds increased.[6]  However, the GaDOE introduced the CCGPS Coordinate Algebra EOCT in 2012-13 to replace Math I.  The new test is aligned to more rigorous standards in the CCGPS, and the pass rate dropped from 67% on the 2011-12 Math I EOCT to 39% on the 2012-13 Coordinate Algebra EOCT.  Only 5% of students exceeded standards.  Some of this drop is due to increased standards and more rigorous cut scores, but lack of familiarity with both the new standards and the test also likely influenced results, as has happened in the past when the state has introduced new assessments.

Figure 1 shows Georgia students’ performance in EOCTs over the last four years. The literature exams have the highest meets or exceeds rates, with the 91% of students meeting or exceeding expectations on the 2012-13 American Literature and Composition and 86% on 9th Grade Literature and Composition.  Math exams, on the other hand, have the lowest performance.  Improvement in the meets or exceeds rate from 2009-10 to 2012-13 ranged from +6 percentage points (American Literature and Composition) to +12 percentage points (US History).[7]

Figure 1: EOCT Percent Meets or Exceeds Trends

Figure 2 includes the percent exceeds trends over the last four years. The percent exceeds increased on all EOCTs, with the exception of Math II.[8]  The exceeds rate ranges between 30% and 40% for the English and social studies exams but varies dramatically among the math and science exams.  The Coordinate Algebra and Math II EOCTs have by far the lowest 2012-13 percent exceeds at 5% and 9% respectively, while Physical Science tops all EOCTs with a 2012-13 exceeds rate of 48%.  The change in percent exceeds from 2009-10 to 2012-13 ranged from -1 (Math II) to +16 percentage points (Physical Science).[9]  Physical Science is the only EOCT-associated course that is not required for all students, which likely explains the higher numbers.

Figure 2: EOCT Percent Exceeds Trends

The GaDOE introduced CCGPS Analytic Geometry to replace Math II in 2013-14, and it is likely that scores will decrease in similar fashion to the Coordinate Algebra results due to increased rigor.

While performance on Georgia-specific EOCTs has increased in recent years, these results do not reveal how Georgia students compare to their peers nationwide.  The next section details Georgia’s performance on national tests.

National Tests

Unlike the EOCTs, not all Georgia public school students take the SAT or the ACT.  71% of 2013 Georgia public high school graduates took the SAT, while 51% of all 2013 graduates in Georgia took the ACT.[10]  Historically, as a state’s percentage of students taking these national tests increases, the state’s average test score decreases.


The SAT is a college readiness assessment that postsecondary institutions use for admissions purposes.  As seen in Figure 3, Georgia’s average SAT score for public and private high school graduates has remained steady since 2010.  The 2013 average score is 1 point lower than the 2010 average, while the national average decreased by 8 points.[11]  Georgia’s 2013 average score still trails the national average by 46 points. 

The College Board sets benchmark SAT scores that indicate whether a student is likely to succeed in college courses by analyzing a representative sample of students’ actual performance in four-year colleges.[12] 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.  The benchmark score is 1550 out of 2400 overall points and 500 in each content area of the test (critical reading, mathematics, and writing). 

Table 1 shows 2013 Georgia public high school graduates’ performance on the benchmarks. Only 33% of 2013 Georgia public high school graduates who took the SAT met the overall benchmark.[13]   Between 36% and 43% met the content area benchmarks.

Table 1: College Readiness of 2013 Georgia Public High School Graduates Taking SAT

Content Area


Percent of 2013 Georgia Public High School Graduate SAT Takers Meeting Benchmark

Critical Reading 500 (out of 800) 43%
Math 500 (out of 800) 42%
Writing 500 (out of 800) 36%
Composite 1550 (out of 2400) 33%

The ACT is another college readiness assessment used for postsecondary admissions purposes.  Georgia’s 2013 average ACT score for public and private high school graduates is 20.7 and has remained flat since 2010.[14]  It slightly lags the national average of 20.9, and the gap between Georgia’s average and the national average has closed by only 0.1 point since 2010.


The ACT is comprised of four subjects: English, reading, mathematics, and science.  ACT sets a separate college readiness benchmark for each subject.[15]  As Table 2 shows, depending on the subject, between 33% and 64% of 2013 Georgia graduates taking the ACT are ready for college coursework in that subject.  Only 23% met the benchmark in all four subjects.

Table 2: College Readiness of All 2013 Georgia High School Graduates Taking ACT


Corresponding College Course Benchmark   Percent of 2013 Georgia Public Graduate ACT Takers Meeting Benchmark
English English Composition 18 64%
Reading Social Sciences 22 43%
Mathematics College Algebra 22 38%
Science Biology 23 33%
Composite Overall Success Meet all subject benchmarks 23%
Comparison to EOCT Performance

Direct comparison of performance between the EOCT and national tests like the SAT or ACT is not possible because not all students take the national tests. Still, given that only roughly one-third of SAT and ACT test takers are prepared for college coursework, the meets or exceeds rate of 64% to 91% on most EOCTs appears high.  In fact, the lower meets or exceeds rate on the Coordinate Algebra EOCT more closely aligns with the college readiness benchmarks on the national tests.


Performance on the EOCT has improved from 2009-10 through 2012-13, especially on the Physical Science, Biology, and US History exams.  Despite improvement on Georgia-specific EOCT, Georgia students trail the nation in performance on national tests. In addition, the newly-introduced CCGPS Coordinate Algebra EOCT rate is much lower than previous assessments because of increased rigor designed to prepare students for colleges and careers.

Roughly one third of students who took the ACT and SAT achieved scores that indicate they are ready for college.  Thus, although the pass rate on new Coordinate Algebra EOCT is much lower than rates for the other EOCTs, it aligns more closely to college readiness standards, as it was designed to accomplish.  Going forward, Georgia should pursue more rigorous assessments to ensure its students are prepared for colleges and careers and that it has a clear picture of student performance.



[1] For more information on the EOCT, visit the Georgia Department’s website: http://www.doe.k12.ga.us/Curriculum-Instruction-and-Assessment/Assessment/Pages/EOCT.aspx.



[2] Ibid.



[3] For students beginning 9th grade for the first time before July 1, 2011, the EOCT comprises 15% of the course grade.



[4] The GaDOE provides links to documents containing the cut scores at http://www.doe.k12.ga.us/Curriculum-Instruction-and-Assessment/Assessment/Pages/default.aspx.



[5] EOCT information is from GOSA’s Report Card



[6] This analysis does not include Geometry because this test was not administered in all four years.



[7] Range does not include Math I/Coordinate Algebra.



[8] Does not include Math I/Coordinate Algebra



[9] Range does not include Math I/Coordinate Algebra.



[10] Source: College and Career Readiness: Georgia Public Schools Class of 2013 (print) and The Condition of College & Career Readiness 2013: Georgia. ACT does not provide the participation rate for public high school students on its website.



[11] At the national level, College Board provides historical data on all students—from public and private schools—only on its website.  National numbers and Georgia’s 2013 information is from 2013 College-Bound Seniors: State Profile Report: Georgia.  Georgia’s 2011 and 2012 information are from The SAT Report on College & Career Readiness: 2012. Georgia’s 2010 information is from 2010 College-Bound Seniors: State Profile Report: Georgia.  



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



[13] College Board provided GOSA with college readiness information about public high school students only.  Numbers are reflective of class of 2013 public high school graduates who took the SAT at some point during their high school career.  Source: College and Career Readiness: Georgia Public Schools Class of 2013 (print).



[14] Data are for all graduates, not just those from public high schools.  Access 2013 and historical data on ACT’s website. ACT does not provide college readiness information for public high school graduates only.



[15] The benchmarks “represent the level of achievement required for students to have a 50% chance of obtaining a B or higher or about a 75% chance of obtaining a C or higher in corresponding credit-bearing first-year college courses. Based on a nationally stratified sample, the Benchmarks are median course placement values for these institutions and represent a typical set of expectations.”  Numbers are reflective of 2013 public and private high school graduates who took the ACT at some point during their high school career. Source: The Condition of College & Career Readiness 2013: Georgia