September 28, 2003

SAT scores and HOPE scholarship in Georgia

Splashed over the front page of the Atlanta Journal Constitution (Sun Sep 28) is the headline: Perdue wants to add SAT score to HOPE requirement.

As was extensively reported last month Georgia ranks 50th in average SAT scores, and this is a matter of some local embarrassment. (The state ranks 15th in participation rate, so the low score is not as bad as may be thought at first.) A few days ago I reported here on the response of Georgia's Superintendent of Schools, Kathy Cox, to the low SAT scores, and I explained why I think that her focus on test preparation misses the mark. In the present AJC article, reported by James Salzer, Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue voices his views.

In an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Perdue argued that forcing students to obtain a minimum SAT score to earn the HOPE scholarship - combined with the only current requirement, a B grade average - would help boost Georgia's dismal national education rankings. [...]

"Knowing that there is a perception of grade inflation, I got to thinking about where our SAT scores would be today if, 10 years ago, they had been a component of the HOPE scholarship," Perdue said Friday. "My theory is, we wouldn't be 50th out of 50 states."

The question is, he said, "Are we willing to think of this [HOPE] as a merit-based scholarship which addresses a serious issue of lagging behind in SAT scores?"

[HOPE - Helping Outstanding Pupils Educationally - provides financial assistance for study at eligible Georgia public and private colleges and universities, and public technical colleges.]

Governor Perdue's suggestion looks as misguided as the policy of Superintendent Cox with regard to the low SAT scores, and I don't think the proposal is advisable policy for the HOPE scholarship either. With regard to the SAT scores the state will have to focus on instruction in grades K-8, and then not expect an effect on the scores next year, or the year after that. (Please note that "SAT" refers in all the local reporting to the SAT-I; the traditional math and verbal test with focus on aptitude.) For a college scholarship it looks not unreasonable to take into account SAT scores, which are generally held to be a good predictor of college success, but one should not confuse the issue and present it as a way to improve high school education. For the latter purpose, and it would be a fine objective for Gov. Perdue, one should consider scores on some proper test of school learning. The SAT-II subject tests come to mind, or something like the traditional New York State Regents examinations, or some good quality statewide high school exit exam.

The AJC article raises the familiar sensitive issue and reports the Governor's response.

"States have seen a much lower percentage of minority students qualifying [for scholarships] when they add test scores," said Gary Henry, a Georgia State University researcher who has studied the HOPE program for much of its 10-year existence.

Perdue said that doesn't have to happen in Georgia.

"I think that's an example of falling prey to the bigotry of low expectations to say that African-American children can't be successful on the SAT," the governor said.

That is a rather harsh response to something that wasn't said. As the AJC article points out, the average score of Georgia's white students was 1035 and that of the black students was 852.

Henry, the GSU researcher, offers this perspective.

"The SAT is not based on the curriculum that students take during high school," he said. "I think the SAT [requirement] would undermine students' current incentive to work hard all four years of high school and further, it would potentially put the whole scholarship program in question."

I'm with Henry on this matter, and I think that Governor Perdue's suggestion to include the SAT score among the HOPE requirements is poor policy. This balloon should not fly. It won't fly, I'm convinced, but this for an entirely different and irrelevant reason. If the SAT becomes part of the HOPE requirements then more students will take the SAT and this will be a burden on the average scores. I think that the Governor will have second thoughts about the matter, and the suggestion to add the SAT score to the HOPE requirements will quietly disappear.

Posted by Bas Braams at September 28, 2003 09:25 AM


I do not think that the hope sholarship should raise its SAT score requirements. Some students are bad standarized test takers, and it is not fair to punish them for that.

Posted by Sara Calvarese at November 2, 2003 07:44 PM

I think that raising the SAT scores to get the hope is just a cheap short cut in order to make Georgia educational scene look better.

Posted by Victor protasio at November 3, 2003 09:33 AM

The researcher from GSU (Henry) pointed out that the SAT is not based on the curriculum that students take during high school. Was he pointing this out as an unfortunate observation or a statement of fact, I'm kind of confused. If the SAT is not an indicator of the curriculum taken in high school then why do colleges and universities force our college bound students to take it and expect them to do well? Second, Is the SAT an aptitude test or an achievement test? If it is an aptitude test then the math section should be struck, since the questions on the SAT reflect knowledge of High school Algerbra and Geometry - not college. If the SAT is an aptitude test then the only legitemate section would be the verbal. Reading comprehension and understanding the relationship between words (the analogy section)is an acquired skill that is understandably useful for measurment as an indicator of performance in college. There is without a doubt not a single subject taken in college where proficient skills in reading comprehension is not a requirement. However, many colleges and universities (unless it is a liberal arts college or highly selective university) do not require students to take a high level math course as part of the core curriculum. If an aptitude test, I would advocate that the SAT I be reformated - the math section replaced with a more extensive verbal section and a required writing section. It is my belief as an educator and a recent college graduate that communication is a vital part of an education both while in college and upon graduation. Outside of basic arithmetic, unless one is persuing a career in the mathematics, sciences, engineering, computers, or those related, I hardly see the practicality in requiring all students to demonstrate proficiency or mastery in algerbra and geometry as it relates to getting into a good college. Those students who desire to pursue the aforementioned careers should be required to take the SAT II math subject test. I am in the process of completing research on this matter in preparation for the writing of a book. I would welcome in questions or additonal comments

Posted by Marquis L. Harris at November 19, 2003 10:55 AM

I feel that the sat requirment is not right because there are several individuals that are smart and just does not do good on test. I am a perfect example all my years in school i did good but in twelth grade i did not recieve the intended scores on my sats.

gerald dyches

Posted by Gerald Dyches at November 25, 2003 01:00 PM