Gov. Sonny Perdue of Georgia believes that in academics as in sports, competition leads to success. That is why he started the Governor’s Cup Program, which awards 30-pound trophies to five high schools across the state with the most improved SAT scores.
“The purpose of this program is to increase statewide SAT scores,” said Shane Hix, a spokesman for the Republican governor.
The winners for the 2003-04 school year received their trophies, along with $2,000 checks, on Sept. 20. They are Portal Middle/High School, in Porta; Coosa High School, in Rome; East Hall High School, in Gainesville; Hephzibah High School, in Hephzibah; and Northview High School, in Duluth. They raised their scores by 100 points on average on the 1600-point college-entrance test.
“The governor is very concerned with the SATs and getting kids ready for college, and felt that this is a great way of getting them prepared,” Mr. Hix said. Another goal, he added, is to understand what makes for successful SAT preparation in order to implement those approaches in other schools.
Some news reports in Georgia are raising questions about the program, however. Critics are reported as saying that some schools in the 35,000-student Richmond County school system “game” the system by recording the SAT scores of only their best-prepared students. Those schools claim only the scores of students who have completed several preparation programs before taking the SAT, the media reports say.
“That accusation is false—in no way are we gaming the system,” said Mechelle Jordan, the director of public information for the Richmond County schools, the home of trophy-winning Hephzibah High.
The district has a policy going back to 1996 that requires students to agree to certain terms before taking the test, Ms. Jordan said. The policy includes encouraging students to take more Advanced Placement courses as well as higher-level math classes.
“We’re preparing more students to excel in college; that is our emphasis,” Ms. Jordan said.
She said the school system has no control over who takes the test.
Still, the district does suggest to students who do not get decent scores the first time they take the SAT to better prepare for the test and take it again.
“This is a win-win situation, not only for the state and the school system, but especially for the students,” Ms. Jordan said.