Changes in the HOPE scholarship by Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue have screwed some of the best students from the class of 2007

 

Governor Sonny Perdue seems proud that Georgia SAT scores for Math and Reading have zoomed from dead-last all the way to 49th place.  

It would seem that Georgia could do better.  Our Governor might wish to encourage students to learn as much as possible so Georgia could achieve higher SAT scores.  

Rewarding smart, ambitious students with a HOPE scholarship might help.

So how does our Governor reward students ambitious enough to take Honors and Advanced Placement classes in high school?  

He changed the rules to reduce the chance for these students to qualify for a HOPE scholarship.

But he didn't stop there.

Changes made by Governor Perdue have screwed thousands of college-bound seniors in the state of Georgia trying to qualify for a HOPE scholarship.

Too harsh?  Don't decide until you find out if your child, grandchild, niece, nephew, neighbor or friend has lost the HOPE scholarship under the new formula for calculating all grades.

Every high school student in Georgia should meet with a counselor regularly to calculate HOPE eligibility.

Many student information systems (the software used to calculate grades and attendance) can't keep up with the bizarre HOPE rules and eligibility must be done by hand.  It may be good to get a second opinion each time...

Be sure to calculate eligibility under both the previous rules and the "Sonny Perdue" rules about to hit the class of 2007.

  

Do you remember those cute TV spots talking about a "Sonny Do" list from the November 2006 election?  Let's see what Sonny really did:

  • The Governor changed the formulas to punish students who take Honors and Advanced Placement classes, thus reducing their chance of receiving HOPE.

    Recognizing that Honors and Advanced Placement classes are much more difficult than regular high school classes, an adjustment was previously made to the HOPE calculation to encourage students to take the more challenging classes.  Sonny cut the AP adjustment in half and completely eliminated the Honors adjustment.  

    Since Governor Sonny Perdue now strongly discourages Georgia students from taking challenging classes, logic dictates that SAT scores will drop (oops - back to last place again!)

  • The Governor changed the formula to calculate HOPE - after the class of 2007 had already started under the old system.  Nothing like changing the rules after the game has started!

    This change alone affects thousands of students in the class of 2007.  The change seems simple but is quite significant.  HOPE was previously calculated on a 100 point scale, and it's now on a 4 point scale.  Read on to see the result.

  • The "Sonny Do" list claims to have 'saved' HOPE and increased SAT scores.  

    Was HOPE 'saved' by making it harder for the ambitious, higher achieving students?  

    Are those improved SAT scores now going to drop because Georgia students are strongly discouraged from taking challenging classes?  
  • THAT'S what Sonny did!

According to the official Sonny Perdue election site (fall 2006):

"As Georgiaís HOPE Scholarship and Pre-Kindergarten programs continue to grow in popularity we have to be good stewards of the Lottery revenues that fund them. Sonny has protected the HOPE and Pre-K for future generations by using Lottery revenues only for these two outstanding programs."

So HOW did Sonny protect HOPE?


According to a recent newsletter from our high school:

"Important Changes to the HOPE Scholarship Program"

"...major changes to the HOPE Scholarship Program will have a major effect on HOPE eligibility for students in the class of 2007 and thereafter."

"Looking at student transcripts it is clear that these changes will significantly reduce the number of students who qualify for the HOPE scholarship."

 

Many of these students are now HOPElessInGeorgia - thanks to the Governor.

The rules changed for the class of 2007 halfway through the game.  This is like starting a baseball game, then changing the rules in the 5th inning if you don't like the score.  Here is one way that Governor Perdue changed the calculations after these students had started high school and had already completed classes: 

(Continuing from the school newsletter)
"Under the old system, grades in the high part of the "C" range (77-79) would average with grades in the low to middle part of the "B" range (80-86) to keep the total average at or above the 80 that was required for the scholarship.  Under the new formula a college preparatory student will have to counter any grade of "C" (72-79) with an A (90 and above) to meet eligibility.  In an extreme example, a student who made straight "B"s throughout high school except for one grade of "C" would be ineligible for the scholarship."

So what did that really mean?

Hope was previously calculated on a 100 point scale.  It's now on a 4.0 scale.  Here's how it works under the new "Sonny Math".  The results are pretty clear.

 

Old
Math
Letter
Grade
Sonny
Math
English 79 C 2
Math 88 B 3
Science
88
B
3
AVERAGE 85 2.66

Quality
For HOPE?

YES NO

 


Is Your Student Affected?
Have you asked?

We found out that we were HOPElessInGeorgia on September 8, 2006 during a visit to the school counselor to discuss college.  We had no idea before that day.  Sure, we knew the GPA reported on the transcript and it was over 85: well above the required GPA for HOPE.  

We just didn't know that the HOPE GPA as calculated by the Governor was radically different than the GPA on the transcript. 

The office of the Governor asked that we verify eligibility with the Georgia Student Finance Commission.  They confirmed that our student was not eligible.  Read on to see what kind of student is rejected for a HOPE scholarship in Georgia under Governor Perdue.

Maybe you should check the HOPE status of your student before the November election.  Be sure to find out if your student would have qualified under the 'old rules' or the new 'Sonny Perdue' rules.  Don't forget to ask about your grandkids, nieces, nephews and other 'Class of 2007' members.

Our student would qualify today under the original rules from freshman year, but NOT under the rules imposed later under Governor Perdue.  

What about your student?

 

Our high school is top-rated in our county for academics.

Students at our school work hard for good grades, 
so students at our school were hit pretty hard by 
the Sonny Bus.

 

 

 Sonny do?  Give me the details.

Here's what Sonny REALLY did:

  • The Governor changed from a 100 point scale to a 4 point scale dropping many students from the system.  How many?  Hundreds?  Thousands?  

    Lucky for Sonny this never became a campaign issue.  I'm sure that many voters are now experiencing "buyers remorse".
  • The Governor changed the formulas to punish students who take Honors and Advanced Placement classes, thus reducing their chance of receiving HOPE.

  • Specifically, the points from AP classes were previously bumped by one full letter grade.  Under Governor Perdue these are now bumped by 1/2 a letter grade.  AP classes are the most difficult classes offered during high school and successful completion of an AP test can result in full college credit for the course.  This means that students are now discouraged from taking AP classes because the prospect of a lower grade reduces their chance for HOPE.

  • Previously an Honors class was bumped by 1/2 a letter grade.  Honors courses do not earn college credit but are more rigorous than standard high-school courses and help when applying for college.  Under Governor Perdue there is no longer a bump for Honors classes.  This means that students are now discouraged from taking honors classes because the prospect of a lower grade reduces their chance for HOPE. 

  • These ambitious students are smart enough to know that taking more difficult classes will now jeopardize HOPE.  

    Message from Sonny Perdue: Don't take difficult classes because they count the same as easy classes.  Does Sonny realize this will reduce SAT scores?  What is Sonny's actual goal?  

  • Why did Governor Perdue punish the Honors and AP students?

    A representative from Governor Perdue's office explained to me that too many schools were labeling regular classes as 'Honors' classes and this was distorting the system, so they dropped the extra points.  She offered no explanation at all for reducing the points for AP classes.

    Did it not occur to anyone that talented students would stop taking REAL Honors courses taught in academically oriented schools, and that this would result in the 'dumbing down' of Georgia students?

    Nice way to reward the ambitious students.  Don't you love the logic of politicians and technocrats?


What kind of student is rejected for HOPE in Georgia?  Here's one example.

  • Ranked nationally in the 99th percentile on the PSAT/NMSQT.

  • High-school courses taken in middle-school:  Algebra, Geometry and Spanish.  (All A's)

  • Gifted program since 1st grade.

  • Ten Honors classes in high school.

  • Two AP classes completed (A's) and 2 AP classes in progress.

  • SAT score 1420 (old scale)
    (By comparison, UGA freshman class middle 50% of Honors students were in the SAT range of 1400-1480 this year.  The overall UGA freshman class middle 50% was 1242.)

  • School GPA calculation 85.738

  • Superintendent's "Key Scholar Program" for district-wide academic recognition in our county

... But this senior is not quite good enough for HOPE under the new 'Perdue' rules!


Why this web site?

It is difficult for me to comprehend that our student will not qualify for the HOPE scholarship. It seems that a number of ambitious and gifted students in our school find themselves in similar circumstances, and I suspect this is not uncommon.

I now question our choice to push our student to take more difficult Honors and AP classes.  Our student is bright and we felt that challenging classes made more sense than easy classes, and that higher grades in easier classes didn't impress college admissions staff very much.  We didn't expect this decision to kill eligibility for a HOPE scholarship.  It also didn't help with HOPE eligibility that we chose a great school district with tougher competition for top grades.  HOPE would have been a 100% certainty by taking regular high school classes or attending a lower quality Georgia school.

If one assumes that grades are roughly allocated in each school based on a bell curve, and that abilities vary greatly by school in Georgia, it would seem that families living in suburban areas with top schools are grossly penalized for selecting neighborhoods based on the quality of the schools.  Students in top schools are penalized for HOPE under the rules of Governor Perdue. The situation is exacerbated with the new penalties for Honors and AP classes, and the change from a 100-point to a 4-point scale.  Sonny just doesn't give a rip about kids in good, competitive schools.

It would seem to me that these families represent a core support group for the Governor as they are family-oriented folks living in quality suburban neighborhoods. I donít think it was a good choice to screw these people with the changes made to HOPE. Unless the legislature voted to override a veto itís my guess that the Governor signed the bill implementing the rule change to reduce the number of suburban students able to receive HOPE. Were the suburban students sacrificed to insure an appropriate number of less academically-capable students would receive HOPE?  What kind of political deal created this result?

The situation as it stands is immoral and it is wrong. The Governor is sending the exact wrong message. This is the real message to smart kids from Governor Perdue regarding HOPE:

  • Get your parents to pick a neighborhood with a less rigorous school. Cut back the competition for grades, since the only measure for hope is GPA. Itís grades, not ability.
  • DO NOT under any circumstances take Honors classes. You may learn more and improve your SAT score, but the increased difficulty is not recognized with increased points and it will hurt your chances for HOPE.
  • DO NOT take AP classes. It may improve your SAT score and colleges may be impressed, but that increased difficulty isnít valued by Governor Perdue and it will hurt your chances for HOPE.
  • In fact, DO NOT take any difficult classes. Shun advanced classes like physics, chemistry and advanced math. While these may increase your SAT score they will hurt your chances for HOPE.
  • The talk about improving SAT scores is just window dressing. If the Governor was serious about the pathetic SAT scores in this state there would be recognition and rewards for harder classes and higher SAT scores. The real goal is some bogus claim on a ďSonny DoĒ list Ė not a real accomplishment. The Governor PUNISHES students working to learn more and get higher SAT scores. The Governor REWARDS slacker students sliding by with easy classes.

By now you must assume that I'm a raving, left-wing nut-job out to get Governor Perdue.

Nope.

I almost never miss an election, have been a registered Republican for decades, am fairly active in local politics (Republicans only) and voted for Sonny previously.  I really liked the guy. 

But right now I'm mad because Sonny could have fixed this problem in his first term.  And the solution was simple.

Basing the HOPE scholarship on grades means that subjective and varying standards by teachers determine the scholarship.  

Average students from underperforming schools qualify (since they stand out and get A's) while students attending rigorous schools must perform at a much higher level to earn A's.  And those A's count the same, regardless of actual results or learning.  Extra AP and Honors points helped smooth out that imbalance -- before Sonny.

The obvious solution is to use OBJECTIVE measures to determine eligibility and the Governor could have made this change.  Students in this state take an alphabet soup of tests - but those standardized, objective tests are ignored with HOPE.

Zell Miller (the only Democrat to earn my vote in 20 years) was responsible for this great program.  But the program has always been flawed because scholarships were essentially awarded by teachers using subjective and uneven standards.

Governor Perdue had the chance to fix HOPE - and instead he made it worse. 

And for that reason I didn't vote in the Governor race.  

 

Maybe Sonny should return to his former vocation of castrating dogs because he's sure not doing anything to help education in the state of Georgia.

Has your kid been to visit the school counselor?  

Are you HOPElessInGeorgia?


Epilogue:  The student submitted all required materials to attend UGA and would have met the entrance requirements.  An incompetent clerk at the suburban high school decided to NOT send the official copy of the SAT score because it was already printed on the transcript.

UGA rejected the application despite calls from the school counselor explaining that the school made the error and the student should not be penalized.  There is no recourse and the student will NOT be allowed to attend UGA due to the incompetence of a clerk at a high school.

Screw you Hope Scholarship and the politicians using it to buy votes.

Screw you Sonny Perdue for not doing your job.

Screw you incompetent high school clerk and the administrators protecting your job.

Screw you UGA and the entire Georgia "education" system.  What a joke!  

 

Oh - my student?

The student has been accepted to the honors program at UA (Tuscaloosa, AL) and starts Fall 2007.

Upon completion of high school advanced placement classes a student can take AP exams.  If the scores are high enough the student receives college credit.  Our student did well on all AP exams, eliminating well over a full semester of college requirements.

But in Georgia, a student with a high SAT score and successfully passing enough AP exams to skip over a semester of college doesn't qualify for the Georgia HOPE scholarship.  Not with Sonny math.

Way to go, Sonny!  What an ass.

Roll Tide!

 

This site WAS NOT created by or on behalf of any political candidate.
It represents the personal views of the author.

The Office of the Governor and the Georgia Student Finance Commission have
been encouraged to contact me with any errors in this web site.  They know how
to reach me and they know about this site.  

They have not contacted me with any errors.  Truth hurts.

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