SAT Scores Slide at GHS

… all the men are strong, all the women are
beautiful, and all the children are above average.

– Garrison Keillor
“… all the men are strong, all the women are

beautiful, and all the children are above average.”

– Garrison Keillor

The Advanced Placement test scores – in many cases – are bad. The proficiency scores are worse. So it is no surprise that the SAT scores at Gilroy High School for last year are also bad.

The number of seniors at GHS increased from 493 in 2003 to 549 in 2004. The number of seniors who took the SAT decreased sharply, from 188 to 122. The number of seniors who scored above a thousand also fell, from 96 to 62, according to the preliminary data of GHS Vice Principal Greg Camacho-Light.

On last year’s SAT, 1000 was an average score. So if Mr. Camacho-Light’s data are correct, only 62 of GHS’s seniors were above average. Lake Woebegone we ain’t.

The scores aren’t surprising, but they are troubling. So are the attempts by school officials to account for the decline by noting that the high school experienced a significant increase in the number of students who participate in the free and reduced-cost lunch program. Even if that is true, there are still more than 62 seniors in Gilroy whose parents are doctors, lawyers, engineers, computer scientists, and business people.

Aren’t we tired of hearing why GHS students can’t? Aren’t we ready for some “Stand and Deliver” energy where the staff believe in everyone’s ability and possibility?

The Dispatch utterly rejects the undemocratic notion that a child’s educational fate is sealed once and for all by his family’s socioeconomic and educational attainments. Were that so, there would be no point at all in public schools.

What is to be done?

First, kudos to Mr. Camacho-Light for digging through the data and presenting the bad news to the board. Kudos also to board trustee Tom Bundros, whose independent investigations indicate a 10-year slide in GHS SAT scores. The first step in solving a problem is to identify it.

Secondly, let us note that the scores are exactly what we would expect after decades of the philosophy that GUSD should focus all its attention on its low-achieving students, because the bright ones will pick it up any way. The reinstatement of honors classes may help to reverse the trend, but it won’t happen overnight.

Thirdly, let us acknowledge that the most disturbing number is the decrease in the number of students who bother to take the SAT. That decline bespeaks a truly frightening state of diminished expectations.

Fourthly, although SAT tests are not taken until high school, the education a child receives in elementary school and middle school forms the foundation for his secondary education. If he is not taught his lower-order skills in elementary school, he is handicapped in picking up his higher order skills in high school.

Lastly, SAT scores and related statistics should form part of the annual Accountability Report.

We look forward to finding out more about this aspect of GHS’s performance when the official SAT score report is issued this month.

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