Questioning Logic of School “White Flight” to ‘Burbs, Decatur Comes Out On Top in SAT

This is pretty interesting.

The AJC’s Maureen Downey – a Decatur resident – recently posted an extensive analysis by a reader that showed white students ITP actually posted better SAT scores than their white counterparts in the ‘burbs the last two years.  Both Maureen and the reader states that the analysis was done in reaction to numerous comments on the “Get Schooled” blog that…

“Many suburbanites on this blog contend that they would never send their children to city of Atlanta or DeKalb schools and that’s why they now live in Forsyth or Cobb.”

The reader admits that the SAT analysis is not exhaustive. They didn’t check the scores of every school district in the state.  However, they did go through all the urban and suburban districts around Atlanta.  (Also note that Downey states later on in a comment, that the AJC did vet the info before posting)

Here’s what “the reader” found:

In 2008-09 (the most recent data included at the state website), the Georgia system with the highest average SAT scores (math and verbal) for its white students appears to be Decatur City (1203); second is Atlanta City (1165); third is Marietta City (1150); and fourth is DeKalb County (1145).

For 2007-08, the top four appear to have been (1) Atlanta (1174); (2) Decatur (1166); (3) DeKalb (1136); and (4) Fulton County (1108). The statewide SAT average for all white students was 1042 in 2008-09 and 1040 in 2007-08

I know from prior discussions with many white parents (especially those whose children do not attend APS schools) that these results will strike some as unbelievable — that white students in Atlanta, Decatur and DeKalb public schools perform better on SATs than white students in Fulton, Cobb, Gwinnett, Cherokee, Fayette, Forsyth and possibly (probably?) every other system in the state of Georgia!

25 thoughts on “Questioning Logic of School “White Flight” to ‘Burbs, Decatur Comes Out On Top in SAT”


    1. Yep, kinda depressing, actually. “I don’t care what your fancy stats say, I know it’d be horrible for my kids to be exposed to all that Thug Ghetto culture, because Neil Boortz says that sending your child to Atlanta schools is child abuse!” Ugh.

  1. Keep in mind, the pool of kids (white & black) is smaller intown. That can affect scores with Decatur being the perfect example – SAT scores from just one high school.

  2. I think this is more about economic standing than about race. It would be interesting to look at the household income and parents’ education level for the white kids in all these different systems.

    The predominantly white areas ITP have high costs for housing. Areas like Decatur, Druid Hills, Ansley Park, Morningside , Buckhead . Most families who live in these areas have relatively high incomes and parents have at least a college education. I’m guessing that, on average, white students in the OTP counties – Cherokee, Forsyth, Fayette, Gwinnett come from homes with lower household income and perhaps lower parent education level.

    1. I think you’re probably right, but that also would suggest that the lower scores at some ITP schools are due to children from families with lower incomes than most suburban schools, and I think that’s a point that’s lost on most people. Lower test scores, or whatever metric you use to gauge school quality, is often an indication of the socioeconomic conditions of the student body rather than poor instruction, which at least partially undermines the argument that suburban schools are superior. On the other hand, factors such as peer group favor more affluent schools, but in that way, white flight becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

      1. Good point. And some of those OTP schools are enormous and impersonal according to our relatives and friends. And there’s some pretty undesirable kids there in terms of behavior and performance, no matter how white they are. Some OTP families still have to send their kids to private school or homeschool the kids to get their children what they need. So going to school OTP in no way, shape, or form is a guarantee that one’s child will get a better experience.

        Whether it’s due to CSD magic, great families, good parenting, caring community, lots of professional and education-oriented parents, stable lower income families, farm to table, walkability, the Decatur Book Festival and Little Shop of Stories, or good coffee, no question that the public schools in Decatur are a good place for our children.

        1. My children are older now. When they were in CSD , it was a good place for some children especially those who were white , affluent and had no learning issues. These SAT numbers indicate that this is still true. Honestly CSD wasn’t such a good place for the rest. I hope that has changed during Dr Edwards tenure. Anyone know how our non white students compare to their peers in other systems ? Is CSD a good place for ALL of our children ?

          1. Just my opinion–no hard data–but I observe all typical children, regardless of color or income, getting a pretty darn good education in CSD, at least for Georgia, mostly because of the incredible dedication and skill of the teachers. But the families of children with learning disabilities, regardless of color and income, have to be constant, alert, and educated advocates for their children. There’s a tendency to downplay the seriousness of the disabilities and keep interventions to a minimum. It’s probably due to financial pressure but not a strategic, or legal, approach long-term. Addressing issues early saves money in the long run. Not to mention stress and legal action.

            1. Any advice in particular on what parents of kids with disabilities should do (in addition to the above advice)? We have some friends with kids with serious disabilities who are very, very happy with CSD, and our own daughter (who has Down Syndrome) will shortly transition from Babies Can’t Wait into CSD. We’ll be drawing up an IEP soon, and while we want to have our daughter mainstreamed as much as possible, we also want to make sure she gets any specialized attention she needs in order to thrive.

              1. This is way beyond my abilities and probably highly specific to the diagnosis and your particular child. So I highly recommend joining parent support groups, asking your medical specialists for what educational supports exist locally, researching federal and state law as much as you can, e.g. IDEA–e.g. the State’s Department of Educaton website, and being prepared to invest some money now and then for independent evaluations and/or legal opinions or the use of educational advocates just to be sure you are on top of things. I suspect you are already doing this but don’t stop. And keep talking to lots and lots of parents who have direct experience. If you are finding lots of parents who are very satisfied, that is more important than anything else. Also talk to the unsatisfied, just to educate yourself, not necessarily to be swayed one way or the other. And be prepared to be flexible–what works great one year for your child may change the next year depending on your child, their changing needs, your family’s changing needs, and the particular CSD staff and school involved. I have observed specific children go in and out of private school and CSD over time. That seems to work ok.

            2. I don’t agree with you there. Since No Child Left Behind, I’ve noticed that the teachers practically stand on their heads to make sure the special ed students get what they need, because if their scores aren’t high enough, a school can land on needs improvement.

              1. Teachers are great. They usually want all appropriate services for their students because it really helps them to give differentiated instruction in the classroom for all the kids, whether they be exceptional students–gifted or legally disabled–or not. Eligibility and what kind of IEP is provided are the issues. The experience families have seems to vary a lot. You don’t want to wait until a child is already not passing the CRCT to identify learning or other disabilities. It’s imperative to identify them early when they are easier to correct. It’s very complex. Not all children with concrete legally-defined medical, behavioral, or learning disabilities fail the CRCT or score extremely low on the MAP, especially if they are very intelligent or good copers in addition to having an organic disability. But if red flags are missed and services are denied or delayed, those kids won’t succeed as well as they could have with the right help and may show up later as failing students and/or with psychological and/or behavioral issues when it’s a lot harder to address them.

                I’m sure that what CSD is doing for exceptional students–gifted or those with disabilities–has improved over time thanks to federal and state law and funding, better educated parents, and maybe NCLB, not to mention CSD’s desire to serve all students. But I would still stay educated, alert, and ready to advocate for my child if needed. When one advocates appropriately for one’s own child, it helps all the children with similar issues because the schools should provide equitable services for all eligible.

          2. Closing “the achievement gap” was a big deal at CSD last time I checked. That tells me there may be some issues facing lower income families.

  3. By the way, could the “reader” who did the analysis be our own intrepid, thoughtful, quantitatively oriented ex-candidate for CSD School Board, Garrett Goebbel? When in doubt about any educational data, ask Garrett!

  4. Discerning parents choose a school, not a district. Our kids graduated from Druid Hills and were successful in college. I seriously doubt they would have been as successful had they graduated from Towers. Also if we compare white student performance on a school to school basis instead of a district to district basis, the suburban schools will have higher SAT scores.

    1. actually, if you trudge through the BS comments on the page, you will find that this assertion has already been proven incorrect. Using the same numbers from the DOE website, one reader responds to this claim (made earlier on the comment section), with the following:
      “David Simms claims that the higher overall average SAT scores for all students at those schools somehow prove “that the white students at those schools are being better taught than the white students in Grady High in Atlanta.” Really? The facts — as shown in the DOE’s own numbers — are that the average white student SAT (math plus verbal) score at Grady for the last reported school year was 1161 — higher than the white student averages at every one of the schools listed by David: Walton (1159), Lassiter (1129), Pope (1126), Harrison (1085), Roswell (1146), Milton (1119), and South Forsyth (1099). Moreover, in none of the last three years have the white student average SAT scores at any of those schools ever equaled the average white student scores at Grady”
      The reader only addresses Grady High School in Atlanta as a direct response to the previous comment, however, the numbers ring true for most ITP schools with a significant white population.

  5. I love Decatur. And I’ve lived in DeKalb (ITP) for years. However, my family chose Dunwoody because it offered more space than any of the Decatur homes for the same price — the homes available were being listed at inflated prices earlier this year (which people offered us reduced after we’d gone user contract). My point is: Just because people move to the burbs and they are White doesn’t mean it’s White Flight. I think the term is a bit outdated. People are moving out here for other reasons, too. I don’t understand the hostility about OTP. People know Decatur is great, but not everyone can afford you.

  6. All of this talk about ITP vs. OTP and Black versus White has caused me to seriously question my internal belief system. After much contemplation I have decided that I will adopt four children (two black and two white) and send one of each color to schools OTP (by faking their residency status, of course ((take THAT, Irony!!)), and the other two to schools ITP.

    Check back here in 20 years for my report on how it all turned out.

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