State of Georgia’s educational system

Patti Ghezzi writes in the AJC’s “Get Schooled” blog that Georgia’s students aren’t as far behind their peers as popularly thought:

Pardon the remedial recap, which most Get Schooled readers do not need, but … Georgia is tied for 50th on the SATs, a test about 70 percent of Georgia seniors take. In some states, such as Mississippi, only the most ambitious students take the SAT, with the vast majority preferring the rival ACT.

The only test that provides a national comparison is NAEP. And on NAEP, Georgia students rank in the lower half, but never last or next-to-last. In fourth-grade reading, for example, Georgia’s average scale score of 214 is higher than the following states: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada and South Carolina. In fourth-grade math, Georgia’s average scale score of 234 is better than Alabama, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada, New Mexico, Rhode Island, Tennessee and West Virginia.

If 4th graders are in the middle of the pack not dead last or next to last, and High Schoolers are dead last, what’s happening between 4th and 12th grade?


  1. HJ Bailey says:

    The problem is government schools, teachers unions and politicians, both Republicans and Dems, using government schools and the education system for their own political games. For years, we have continued to lag behind the rest of the world, not only in Ga, but across America. Politicians like there being problems with education because they can continue to make political promises of “fixing education” but never take the bold steps necessary to solve the problems.

    The solution is school choice but there are not any politicians who are brave enough to take a stand.

  2. Bailey,

    I agree that one of the possible solutions is school choice, but what politician out there would have the testicular fortitude to challenge the teachers’ unions.

  3. kspencer says:

    First, you’re comparing apples and oranges. The NAEP also compares 8th graders. And there the placements for 8th graders is similar to that of the 4th graders. By the way, I’d not call 40th (reading) or 37th (math) “middle of the pack”, but that’s a digression.

    Second, you’re comparing apples and oranges. The NAEP tries to test all the students. The SAT is a self-selecting test. And Georgia has in interesting element that increases the number of low-scorers who take the test anyway — HOPE scholarships.

    It is highly likely that the SAT scores are lower because people of equivalent academic performance in other states, believing or knowing they have no chance of getting into college/university, don’t bother to take the ‘qualification test’. Take out the bottom 10% of a range (to make a number up), and the average of the remainder is higher.

    But all that’s just my guess.


  4. HJ Bailey says:

    I am with ya Andre. I don’t know of any politicians with the balls to do so. That is the problem. That is why there is not a solution and why we are at the bottom.

    As to your remarks Kirk, It is true that the students at the bottom that take the SAT brings Georgia down in comparison to other states, but if you look at all scores, even after taking that bottom 10% out, we are still at the bottom. Not just Ga but America.

    I think America is 14 or 15 out of 21 industrialized nations in Science and 16/21 in Math. This is sad for the greatest nation on earth.

  5. Hey, didn’t class size reduction go through for K-3 but Perdue yanked it for grades higher than that? I mean, it’s such an obvious suggestion as to why higher grades may still be falling behind that I had to throw it out there…

  6. HJ Bailey says:

    I don’t know how long it will take people to figure out that class sizes do not lead to higher scores!! This is talking point and a band-aid that republ;icans and democrats put on education which does not lead to a solution to failing scores.

    If you do a little research, you will see that South Korea has some of the highest math and science scores in the world, and they have around 38 or 40 kids per class and sometimes more.

  7. HJ Bailey says:

    With that said, Perdue hasn’t done anything to improve Ed either. So dont think I am defending him.

  8. emily says:

    Chris–yes. Constantly deferring class size reductions (not to mention slashing funding consistently) is a convenient way for our reigning party to blame the previously reigning party for poor performance. “Well, this is just a product of poor democratic leadership. When they had the chance, etc.” There were, in fact, bold steps taken in ’01 and only steps taken backward since ’02.

    Also, why, Andre, do you constantly utilize male genitalia or beating up women (ala Tina/Ike on BFD) as necessary analogies for power? Issues, much?

  9. bird says:

    Alright HJ Bailey, I’ll bite. Government schools are the problem, but then you cite other countries that outperform our system. If we are “14 or 15 out of 21 industrialized nations in Science and 16/21 in Math,” then all the nations ahead of us must have purely private systems.

    Is that the case? Do ANY have private systems in place? Vouchers are not an answer to poorly performing schools. If Republicans would quite trying to bash and sabotage the system, maybe they could pick up a shovel and help us make it better for a change.

  10. jacewalden says:

    There are too many things wrong with our education system to list on here, but I do agree with chrishardcore about class sizes.

    Other than that, the major problem is how our elected officials (in both parties) tend to deal with education…they think that if they pump money into it or take money away from it, that it should automatically fix itself. Money doesn’t fix anything. Leadership does. In the end, its a problem that starts in Georgia homes. Parents have an inherent responsibility to ensure that their child is getting the most out of school, whether it be studying, researching, participating in extra-curricular activities. Parents should play a much stronger role in the education of their children. Unfortunately, there’s no way to legislate personal responsibility.

    Also, if we’re so concerned about test scores, why not do what several other states have already done?–create an elective SAT preparation course to be offered in all public high schools…Now, I’m not saying that a good SAT score means the education problem is fixed, but apparently thats how the public in general views the success and/or failure of our school systems.

    Anyway, I’m probably wrong about everything I just said…but as Stephen Colbert would say, “I’m not a big fan of facts…I just believe that its true.”

  11. Oh good grief, can’t I just make a comment without everyone getting all up in arms and wanting to burn me in effigy.

    Is it quite possible that y’all are being a bit overly-sensitive?

  12. Bill Simon says:

    Dang, Emily! What’s gotten into you? You must have stumbled into a great batch of Wheaties from Kroger. You’re full of spitfire this week! Not that there’s anything wrong with it… 😉

  13. emily says:

    Well, Bill, it must be said. I was really counting on you to take care of it for me, but, alas…All in good fun, though, yes?

  14. Ellis Wyatt says:

    I don’t think the “reigning party” issue matters.

    Georgia’s schools, and America’s schools, have continued to fall behind year after year…

    Republicans and Democrats alike are failing our youth.

    The only option is the option of school choice, or simply to make the public school system private. That would lead to accountability. We all know we won’t get accountability from Democrats and Republicans, we never have…

  15. kspencer says:

    Money may not be the solution, but I think it’s a major factor.

    Make a chart of the state’s school systems that plots dollars spent per student with performance – most any measure of performance works – and you’ll see that FOR THE MOST PART there’s a pretty obvious match. The more you spend, the more likely the kids do well. I’ll agree there are exceptions. Exceptions mean “not always” not “never”.

    Is money the only answer? I doubt it. Some years ago I saw another correlation chart that was even stronger than the money one. Basically, it crossed hours of parental involvement (volunteers) with performance. But I ran a separate crosstab and found that (again usually but not always) the schools with greater parental involvement also tended to be the schools with more money per student.

    Oh, and HJ? Pull the bottom 10% out of Georgia’s SAT scores and we move up to 30th in 2005. I don’t know if 10% is the right number, but I think it’s an interesting point to note.

  16. Bill Simon says:


    You cannot selectively choose to “pull-out” the bottom 10% of Georgia’s scores without doing the exact thing for all of the other states’ scores. If you want to start applying a “curve” to the SAT scores, you have to apply it to all of the data points.

  17. HJ Bailey says:

    No child left behind was a mistake. Democrats complain about this bill but it is the same type of non-solution they always have implemented.

    Smaller class sizes and higher salaries will not nor ever has been a solution to our education problems!!

    We have tried it and it does not work. This is a politically driven solution to be used as a talking point by republicans and democrats.

  18. Michael C says:

    Working in a private K-12 institution and married to a teacher working in a public middle school, It is obvious to me that most private schools are doing it right and most public schools get it wrong.

    First there is a major discipline problem in public schools. Kids know they can act up and disrupt a class and the worst thing that can happen to them is they get moved to another school. And this is only after months of detailed documentation. Meanwhile they disrupt the education of hundreds of their classmates. Once moved the student gets a clean slate and the paperwork must start anew. Disrupting the learning process for even more kids. A private school expells such bad behavior so the learning process can continue.

    I am sure that this is not a popular sentiment but sometimes you just can not help a bad seed. Cut some of them loose and many students on the fringe will correct their behavior. We must instrill personal accountability into each and ewveryone of our kids.

    Maybe money is an issue. But it is not the only issue. My private school is very successful at educating students because it has to. If it were not successful we would not survive. That is what parents pay us for. They want the best education for their children. Money does buy us better computers, and we are able to attract more teachers with their masters or Phd. Money is not the sole factor for these techers, its the ability to teach. Public school teachers are too restricted in their curriculum. YEs we set administrative guidelines but only the teacher in the classroom knows how well the students are doing. Public teachers are forced by curriculum to moveon even when students do not understand a certain topic.

    School choice in the public arena will work wonders to change our system. Let schools compete for taxpayer dollars by providing the best education taxpayer money can buy. Competition breeds innovation. Noone can deny the successes vouchers have made in Milwaukee and Cleveland. Those are not isolated incidents. It can work everywhere.

    Our current cookie cutter approach is failing our kids.

  19. John Konop says:

    My wife was a teacher in the public school system.Any teacher will tell you the size of the class is a major factor in your ability to teach .
    When many of us went to school 80% of the funds went to class room , which today we are lucky that even 50% goes to a classroom. This is one of the factors that gives private schools a major advantage ,you would not see 50% of the money going to the administration. Finally any teacher will tell you that a one size fit all education concept like NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND is doomed for failure. The public school system should work with home schools and private schools to help with strategies to work with kids. The public school system could off set money against voucher cost with lowering of administrative overhead,building cost and eliminating NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND. Why not have all parties work together ?

  20. MountainThinker says:

    For starters, Gov. Perdue and the Georgia General Assembly have expanded the class-size reduction through the 8th grade, and they actually funded it, unlike previous administrations *cough*Barnes*cough*.

    As for the 15/16 countries ahead of the US in math/science, nearly all of them have a voucher or voucher-like system in place…see parents don’t all have education degrees and many don’t have the knowledge/ability to critically evaluate specific shortcomings in their childs educational instruction. You know what parents can do though? Determine a school that is SUCCEEDING in producing effective, competent, and well-educated students; especially when they have the choice of where to spend the money, in the form of a voucher. If we want parental involvement, give parents a way in which they have meaningful particpation. “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” We currently have a system that says “We want and need parental involvment” and then we do everything possible to discourage meaningful participation. Parents have little actual input/influence over a school, and you’d have to be delusional to think otherwise. I say ‘we’ alot, because it is our system, allowed to operate this way by ‘us’. We, collectively, are responsible for this situation, which is perhaps our nation’s greatest on-going failure. It is not, as Georgia’s Former Governor Barnes put it, all the teachers’ fault.

    Effort that doesn’t produce achievement is at best novel, and at worst, wasteful and meaningless. It is time our leaders emphasized this and made it count for something. If they won’t, it’s time for new leadership. Merit-based pay and school vouchers are the two biggest things that can and will right this wayward ship.

  21. kspencer says:

    Bill Simon, please read both my posts. The first one explains why I pulled the bottom 10%. Heck, if you read HJ’s post to which I responded you’d see the reason I pulled it as well.


  22. Bill Simon says:


    I’ve heard the argument that Georgia’s average SAT score would be higher if all the ones who had no intention of going to college were not taking it.

    Here’s the question: Why isn’t the measure of how good the K-12 system is in Georgia directly correlated to the SAT score? Doesn’t that test actually measure what high school students should know upon exiting high school…REGARDLESS of whether or not they intend to actually go to college?

    In short, your argument, along with similar attempts I’ve read that have been uttered by Senator Eric Johnson and others, are a snow-job of the education quality in this state. It sucks on average, and even if you took the bottom-50% of the scores out of the calculation, it still wouldn’t solve the empirical problems.

  23. HJ Bailey says:

    Michael C, Amen to your comments. Parents and politicians need to know and understand the truth in your statements.

    John, parties did work together in developing No Child Left Behind–It was Ted Kennedy and Bush worked together in that bill and it is a complete useless failure.

    Mountain Thinker, you hit the nail on the head. School Choice, Vouchers and Competition between private and public schools is needed and it is the only way that the Ed. problems in America will be solved. The countries and states around the country and world that are performing the best, have the systems. Just take a look at the local governments and states who have implemented some sort of voucher program, they continue to increase in results.

    Bill, you are right about your analysis of the SAT. The top students in private schools, if compared to the top students in public schools, would still be higher if you took out the bottom 50% and GA would still be at the bottom of the nation if you took out even the bottom 75%.

    School Choice, vouchers and Competition is the cure!! I urge professional politicians to stand up for our Children and the future of Georgia!!!

  24. kspencer says:


    I see your problem understanding, and hope I can clarify. No, the SAT does NOT measure “what every high school student should know upon exiting High School”. Not really. It measures how well the students have mastered the academic knowledge considered a pre-requisite to college – – a higher standard.

    If ALL students were required to take the test (or an equivalent standard) then you’d see two things happen. First, you’d see the overall scores go down for everyone. Second, you’d see Georgia’s scores decline less, subsequently raising our rank relative to everyone else.

  25. HJ Bailey says:

    I understand all of the debate over SAT. But the SAT is not the only thing that Georgia students are ranked at the bottom on.

  26. John Konop says:

    HJ Bailey,

    I was referring to public schools,private schools and home schools working together not politicians. You are right both parties failed us ,because they have lobbyist interest at heart not ours.

  27. NewnanYankee says:

    I do feel that Georgia’s SAT scores are skewed low and that the situation is not that bad. However, we are, as a State, behind the curve and below average as far as our schools go.

    I feel that despite her lack of political and media savvy, Kathy Cox is doing some good things. I think that the revised statwide ciriculum will be benificial for our schools.

    While it won’t cure all the ills, a smaller class size will improve things. One it will help reduce the problem that many teachers have of having to slow down to the level of the slowest kid in the room. It will allow for more personalized instruction. It will also make discipline in the classroom more manageable.

    I think that discipline and parental involvement are the biggest issues preventing schools from getting better. Our teachers and administrators need to have the tools to control behavior in our schools. We also need to find a way to get parents engaged in what their kids are doing.

    I don’t feel that school choice is the panacea that everyone thinks it is. A study at Chicago City Schools involving a pilot school choice program revealed kids that succeeded were likely to suceed no matter where they were.

  28. John Konop says:


    I have a social experiment for your kids . Why not take one of your kids and put them in a underperforming , gang infested school. Take your other kid and put them in a private school ,home school or high performing public school. And lets see if you can see the difference between your kids. If you are not willing to do the study, like my wife and I with are kids ,than would it not be hypocritical not to support vouchers?

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