With an average score of 1,567 points on the college entrance and placement exam, Cherokee’s Class of 2013 beat the national average SAT score by 69 points and the state average by 115 points, according to data released Thursday by the Georgia Department of Education and the College Board.
All Cherokee County high schools scored higher than the state average of 1,452, and higher than the national average of 1,498, Cherokee Superintendent of Schools Dr. Frank Petruzielo wrote in a memo Thursday.
“The number of CCSD students taking the SAT increased by 119 over the previous year, with 1,450 students in the Class of 2013 participating,” Petruzielo wrote. “These results are another example of what happens when you make outstanding academic achievement by every student your priority.”
According to the Georgia Department of Education, 75 percent, more than 72,000 students, of the state’s 2013 senior class took the exam, compared to the national participation rate of 43 percent.
The SAT exam has a total possible score of 2,400, and measures critical reading, mathem-atics and writing.
Etowah High School scored highest on the SAT in the county for the fourth year in a row, with an average score of 1,595 points and 302 students who took the test.
Etowah High School Principal Keith Ball said the school’s SAT scores reflected positively on the students who took the exam, their parents and the staff.
“I think the kids, the staff, the community and the parents, have to buy in to the expectation of being successful,” Ball said. “Albeit a collective shining star for the school, those individual kids who sat for the test, they sealed the deal; they did a great job. We don’t take it for them.”
Cherokee High School came in second in the county, with an average score of 1,590 points and 167 students who took the test.
Cherokee High School Principal Debra Murdock said her school started an SAT and ACT preparation program two years ago, called the Princeton Review, which she thinks has greatly benefited students who take the exams.
“We have a lot of kids going through the program,” Murdock said. “Without a doubt, that’s our single most important piece (to success with the SAT).”
Cherokee High was followed by Creekview High School with an average score of 1,585; Sequoyah High School with an average score of 1,562; and Woodstock High School with an average score of 1,556.
River Ridge High School had the lowest score in the county, with an average of 1,505 points, but still exceeded both the state and national average scores. The Class of 2013 is River Ridge High School’s first senior class.
According to the Georgia Department of Education, only 36 percent of the state’s SAT-takers met the College Board’s benchmark score of 1,550. The benchmark score is associated with a student’s ability to be successful in college, and the State Schools Superintendent Dr. John Barge said that 36 percent of students meeting the benchmark in Georgia is “far too low.”
“This percentage is almost identical to the percentage of students who met the benchmark on our most recent End of Course Test in coordinate algebra, showing that regardless of the test, we have to prepare our students more quickly for the world that awaits them after high school,” Barge said in a news release Thursday.
Ball said Etowah High’s excellent SAT scores were mostly a result of students’ perseverance through difficult economic times, which have affected education.
“There’s definitely an expectation to be successful, which sometimes can be a little bit daunting. SAT scores are a unique metric; they’re one of many that dictates whether or not a school is doing well,” Ball said. “The expectation is obviously yielding some pretty good results, and I do appreciate and recognize the fact that, to hold the ranking for four years is a difficult thing to do, especially during the worst economic times in the modern era, with less instructional days. And the kids have been able to persevere through that. SAT scores are great; they come and go, but I think the perseverance that the kids get is more of a lifetime lesson.”
Murdock said that “really good advisement” from teachers and counselors, as well as “questions-of-the-day,” have contributed to Cherokee High students’ success.
“We have a very strong class,” Murdock said. “It was a great class, and Etowah also had a super strong class … terrific kids who were really rocket scientists as far as working really hard and doing great things.”
With an average score of only five points less than Etowah, Murdock said Cherokee High is close to catching up with the county’s top score.
Ball said that he and Murdock are good friends, and because of that, they share a drive to compete against one another.
“Ms. Murdock and I love to be competitive,” Ball said. “We were assistant principals together, so we have a unique bond. We love the fact that we’ve got some friendly competition. Whether it’s playing football or SAT scores, we always want to be the best.”