Besides canceling most of the 2020 spring semester, COVID-19 also did a number on the SAT scores for Bartow County's two school systems.
Both Bartow County and Cartersville City saw an overall decrease from their 2019 SAT scores — 13 points for Bartow and 18 points for Cartersville — for the second consecutive year, and scores at every high school also dropped, significantly for three of them.
According to figures for public school systems released Monday by the Georgia Department of Education, Bartow County's total score mean for its 313 test takers was 1025 — 532 on the evidenced-based reading and writing section and 493 on the math section — down 13 points from 1038 last year, while Cartersville High's 151 test takers earned a total score mean of 1057 — 535 in ERW and 522 in math — an 18-point decrease from 1075 in 2019.
Compared to the state and nation, Cartersville was 14 points above the state average of 1043 and 27 points above the national average of 1030. Bartow County's overall score was 18 points below the state average and five points below the national average.
Cartersville also was above the state and national averages in ERW and math scores while Bartow was the same as the state and above the nation in ERW but below both in math.
"Time and time again, the Class of 2020 inspired us with their resiliency and resolve to pursue their goals," Superintendent Dr. Marc Feuerbach said. "I am deeply proud of their efforts and the fact that they outscored the state and national average."
"I was glad to see that in the midst of all of the uncertainty and disruptions in our school year, 45% of our seniors decided to take the SAT," Cartersville High Principal Shelley Tierce said. "It shows the grit and character our students possess and their willingness to move forward. I am deeply proud of their efforts."
Tierce said she believes the 18-point drop in this year's total score was caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
"I do think the stress associated with the pandemic affected some students’ performance," she said. "When looking at what students experienced in the spring, it is important to remember that some students were dealing with more than the stress of the pandemic and school closures; they also had to work longer hours and help look after younger siblings."
Bartow Deputy Superintendent Dr. David Chiprany said this year's decreases "absolutely" can be attributed to chaos created by the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Dozens of students, many of whom were utilizing our new SAT prep classes and focusing on a spring test date, could not take or retake the test due to COVID-19 cancellations in March, May and June," he said. "We anticipated a record-high number of test takers as well."
Woodland High's 121 test takers saw the lowest decrease of the four high schools, receiving a total score mean of 1045 — 548 in ERW and 496 in math — which was down five points from last year's 1050 average. WHS was the only county school to score above the state and national averages.
"I’m very pleased with how our students performed," Principal David Stephenson said. "The spring and summer exam dates were impacted by COVID-19, and those administrations are usually when our students fair their best so to perform so well compared to U.S. and Georgia averages is a sign that our teachers had students ready early and that our guidance counselors clearly communicated testing readiness and opportunities."
While the school did see a five-point drop in its overall average, "it was less than the decline nationally or statewide," Stephenson said.
"Woodland students actually improved their evidence-based reading and writing score to a 548, 16 points higher than the state average," he said. "It’s important that we communicate opportunities to our students and not allow circumstances outside our control completely affect what our students know they’re capable of."
Adairsville's 88 test takers earned a total score mean of 1029 — 529 in ERW and 500 in math — for a 23-point decrease over last year's average of 1052. The total score was below the state and national averages.
For Cass High, the 104 test takers had an average score of 999 — 515 in ERW and 484 in math — this year, a 19-point drop from 1018 in 2019. The total score was well below the state and national averages.
"We were excited to see Woodland High School outperform its counterparts in the state and nation, recording a composite score of 1045," Chiprany said. "Additionally, WHS topped state and national evidence-based reading and writing scores. Adairsville High School also outperformed the nation’s public schools by nine points in evidence-based reading and writing and came within two points of logging a higher composite score than its counterparts in the nation’s public schools. These are all praiseworthy results from a class of students that faced many challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic."
Cartersville officials look more at how well their students score on the exam than how they stack up against their counterparts across the country.
"While we are very glad to see our students outperforming the state and national averages, we find it more effective and pertinent to focus on our students and their growth," Tierce said.
But Chiprany said it's "important for [Bartow officials] to see increases in both."
"Consistent academic growth is the foundation of our professional learning communities process," he said. "We will continue to perfect our process of preparing our students for the SAT through solid Tier 1 instruction, intentional intervention and remedial support and enrichment activities all orchestrated through our collaboration teams."
Both systems have plans in place to try to improve their students' SAT scores next year.
"As we initiated last year, we anticipate an opportunity for our high school students to take part in SAT prep classes taught by Bartow County School System teachers, utilizing the Khan Academy platform," Chiprany said. "We have created a subcommittee to look at our score trends over the past several years, and we will implement strategies for increased success on standardized tests. Additionally, all of our eighth-grade students will be taking the PSAT for the second straight year, along with our 10th-grade students. The performance data will guide collaborative teams in the instructional planning to assist our SAT prep classes."
Stephenson has additional plans to help Woodland students better prepare for the exam.
"Our teaching staff will continue to emphasize literacy and vocabulary skills across content areas, and our math teachers are targeting specific skill deficits with each learner to help make sure that students have the essential skills needed to perform on college admissions exams starting in 11th grade," he said. "Counselors and school leaders will continue to inform our parents and communicate high expectations."
Cartersville High plans to stay the course with its students while also taking advantage of a new program that started this school year.
"We will continue to provide quality instruction on a daily basis and encourage our students to work hard and give every opportunity their best effort," Tierce said. "We also have ACT and SAT test prep courses available through Edgenuity, the new learning platform we are using for Cartersville Virtual Academy."
Statewide, Georgia's public school students received a total score mean of 1043, five points lower than last year's composite score of 1048 but 13 points higher than this year's national average of 1030.
The state outperformed the nation's public schools by 12 points in ERW — 532 to 520 — and performed a tad better than its national counterparts in math — 511 to 510.
This year, students across Georgia and the nation scored lower in both areas than last year's students.
The percentage of the state's 2020 public school graduates who took the SAT dipped to 64%, down from 67% in 2019.
"The Class of 2020 has faced unprecedented adversity and uncertainty due to the COVID-19 pandemic," State School Superintendent Richard Woods said in a news release. "Given all they have overcome, I am so proud of these students for becoming the third graduating class in Georgia history to beat the national average on the SAT. I continue to be optimistic about the future of Georgia public schools as our students, teachers and schools continue to surpass expectations and outperform their peers nationally."