Dixie Edalgo and Allyson Reyer both graduated first in their class in Georgia public schools. Both now attend in-state public colleges.
But for these valedictorians, the road to college was dramatically different. Reyer, 18, graduated from Sprayberry High in Cobb County with a 4.578 grade point average and 39 hours of college credit through advanced placement courses. In her first year at The University of Georgia, she's already a sophomore.
Edalgo, 19, graduated from Wilcox High in the South Georgia town of Rochelle, where budget cuts forced a four-day week, advanced placement courses are not offered and an estimated two-thirds of students don't have Internet access at home. She graduated with a 4.0 but seldom had homework, and is now struggling with math as a freshman at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College, where a 2.0 - a low C average - is required for entry.
The paths of these top students illustrate the uneven preparation for college provided by Georgia schools. The challenges of rural districts have been a long-standing concern, but an Atlanta Journal-Constitution analysis focused on college readiness. It found that rural students are more likely to need remedial help in college and to score lower on the SAT, a predictor of college success.
Reyer's Sprayberry is an academically average suburban high school with abundant resources, while Edalgo's Wilcox is typical of schools, often in rural areas, where students have less access to rigorous academic tracks considered good preparation for college.
"Sometimes I wonder to myself how I would have done at a school with people like that," Edalgo said of valedictorians from schools like Sprayberry. "I would have had to push myself harder."
Most agree that money and location play a role in the disparities between Georgia schools. The AJC analysis specifically shows:
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