Peachtree City’s McIntosh High School is marked by at least two distinctions this week: An unbeaten football team and the county’s highest test score average on the 2013 Scholastic Aptitude Test.

McIntosh leads in the SAT race with a 1,644-point average, and Starr’s Mill High School is right behind with an SAT average of 1,622. They are followed by Whitewater, Sandy Creek and Fayette County High.

Fayette County school students taking the 2013 SAT scored high again and improved their performance over last year. With a composite score of 1,554, Fayette ranked fourth in metro Atlanta and tied for fifth place statewide.

“The 2013 SAT composite scores released by the Georgia Department of Education show that the Fayette County Public School System placed in the top 3 percent of all school systems in the state, is ranked fourth in metro-Atlanta and tied for fifth statewide,” said school system spokesperson Melinda Berry-Dreisbach. “The 2013 composite score for Fayette is 1,554, up 12 percentage points from last year. The county’s score is 102 percentage points above the state’s score of 1,452 and 56 percentage points above the national score of 1,498.”

The SAT tests critical reading, math and writing.

A breakdown of scores by school showed:

Fayette County High School scored 1,454 points, up 31 points over last year;

McIntosh High School scored 1,644 points, up 11 points over last year;

Sandy Creek High School scored 1,459, up 2 points over last year;

Starr’s Mill High School scored 1,622 points, up 17 points over last year; and

Whitewater High School scored 1,516 points, the same score the school made last year.

Berry-Dreisbach said all of Fayette’s high schools ranked in the top 27 percent of high schools in the state. Last year they were in the top 35 percent, she said.

McIntosh High and Starr’s Mill High held on to their top 5 percent ranking and Whitewater High held on to its 15 percent ranking.

Sandy Creek High and Fayette County High moved up in state rankings to the top 23 percent and 27 percent, respectively. In 2012, Sandy Creek ranked in the top 30 percent and Fayette County High ranked in the top 35 percent, said Berry-Dreisbach

A perfect score on the SAT is a combined 2,400.

Georgia students are often shown to score lower than a number of other states in the SAT. But there is more to the story when it comes to the SAT. Unlike many other states that encourage only the highest performing students to take the SAT, Georgia does encourage students to do so. And that encouragement can come with a price.

State school Superintendent John Barge said 75 percent of Georgia’s 2013 senior class took the SAT, more than 72,000 students, compared to the national participation rate of 43 percent. Georgia has the ninth highest participation rate in the nation. States with higher participation rates typically see lower average scores on the test and often see dips when the number of students taking the exam increases, Barge said.

“It is common for states that have high participation to have lower mean scores compared to states that have a very low participation rate. Media and others often rank states, districts and schools on the basis of SAT scores despite repeated warnings that such rankings are invalid,” said Barge. “The SAT is a strong indicator of trends in the college-bound population, but it should never be used alone for such comparisons because demographics and other non-school factors can have a significant effect on scores. If ranked, schools and states that encourage students to apply to college may be penalized because scores tend to decline with a rise in percentage of test-takers.”