News MIDDAY UPDATE: Ga. SAT scores drop for 2nd straight year; Ga. health agency to get makeover; Rice hopeful of Mideast peace before Bush leaves

Scores on the SAT college-entrance exam dropped for a second straight year in Georgia, pushing the state down one place in the national ranking.

Georgia now ranks 47th compared to other states and Washington, D.C., with a mean score of 1,466 on the standardized test out of a possible 2,400. That’s a six-point drop from last year’s mean score of 1,472 and an 11-point drop from 2006.

The state ranked 46th last year, up from its last place ranking two years before that.

Georgia test takers fared worse on all three SAT categories this year. The mean scores were 491 in reading, 493 in math and 482 in writing, down from 494 in reading, 495 in math and 483 in writing last year.

State education officials say Georgia is still introducing its revamped, tougher curriculum, which will mean better test scores down the road. This year’s ninth graders are the first of Georgia’s high school students to try the new math curriculum and the reading curriculum is just a couple of years old, said deputy superintendent Martha Reichrath.

‘‘I won’t tell you we were excited,’’ she said about Georgia’s SAT scores. ‘‘We are also aware it’s going to take time for the curriculum to take hold.’’

- Associated Press

Ga. health agency to get makeover

Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue wants to create a new state agency to deal with mental health and addictive disease programs.

At a state Capitol news conference today, Perdue endorsed the findings of a task force he appointed in February. It calls for a new Department of Behavioral Health.

Georgia’s mental health system has been under fire and is facing U.S. Department of Justice scrutiny. The agency is also bracing for budget cuts as the state looks for ways to trim spending to absorb a cash shortfall.

The overhaul Perdue proposed today would shift public health into a newly named Department of Health. Child welfare and aging programs would remain with the Department of Human Services.

- Associated Press

Rice hopeful of Mideast peace before Bush leaves

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Tuesday that ‘‘God willing’’ there could still be a Mideast peace agreement before the end of President Bush’s term in office.

‘‘God willing and with the good will of the parties and the tireless work of the parties, we have a good chance of succeeding,’’ Rice said at a joint news conference with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Rice was wrapping up a visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories in hopes of furthering the announced goal of brokering a Mideast peace deal by year’s end, saying she had ‘‘very good’’ discussions. But she has offered few specific signs of progress.

‘‘They are dealing with all issues before them. No issue is off the table,’’ Rice added, calling the negotiations the ‘‘most intensive’’ since the last round of talks broke down in violence in 2001.

Rice is on her seventh trip to the region since talks were relaunched. While Israel and the Palestinians say all key issues have been under discussion, there has been no word on agreements or breakthroughs.

Both sides had hoped to reach a final peace deal before Bush leaves office in January, but have acknowledged that target is unlikely to be met.

- Associated Press


- The Bibb County school board will have one more hearing this evening and then vote on a millage rate increase. Come back to our Web site to find out what happens.

- The new Georgia bulldog mascot has been vetted and will be ready to take the field Saturday as a true freshman on the No.1-ranked team in the land. Columnist Ed Grisamore will tell you a little about the yet-to-be-unveiled Uga VII.


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