September 25, 2012
As more city students took exams meant to earn them college credit and credentials last year, more passed.
The finding, contained in College Board data that the Department of Education released today, bucks a common trend in standardized testing: As testing pools grow and become more diverse, average scores are likely to fall.
That trend has played out nationally for years on the SAT, which most colleges require for admission: Nationally, SAT scores have inched downward each year as more students have taken the test, this year falling to a four-decade low.
In New York City, 2.3 percent more students took the SAT last year than in 2011, but the average score stayed relatively flat. (The total number of students taking the SAT last year comprised 89 percent of the year’s senior class, although not all test-takers were seniors.) The local average score fell by two points, compared to four points nationally even as the participation rate rose faster here.
And the number of city high school students taking Advanced Placement tests, which show mastery in high-level courses and can confer college credits, jumped by 9.1 percent, according to the data. But the number of students passing the exams rose by even more — 12.7 percent — meaning that students’ overall performance improved alongside participation. In total, 56 percent of students who attempted an AP exam last year passed, compared to about 54 percent in each of the previous four years.
The AP gains come as the city Department of Education is pushing schools to expand access to college-level coursework to more students. Forty more high schools administered AP exams last year than in 2009, according to the department.
“As we continue to raise academic standards, our students are rising to the challenge,” Chancellor Dennis Walcott said in a statement. “Advanced Placement and SAT exams are important benchmarks along a student’s path to success in their college and careers, and I’m proud that every year, more New York City students are taking these exams.”
The long-term participation-to-performance ratio is more mixed. Since 2002, the number of students attempting at least one AP exam has risen by 89 percent, but the number of students passing at least one test has risen by slightly less, 86.5 percent. And the gains among new test-takers have been highest among white and Asian students. On average, only half of the increase in the number of black and Hispanic students who took AP exams since 2008 resulted in passing scores, compared to 71 percent for Asian students and 80 percent for white students.
In addition, city students’ average SAT score is well below the national average. This year, NYC students scored an average total score of 1,325, while the national average is 1,477.
Both SAT and AP exam participation and performance will be factored into high schools’ progress report grades for the first time next month. Last year, they were displayed on the progress reports but did not affect their final scores.