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AP Scores Up, SATs Down in D.C.

D.C. public high school students improved their showing on Advanced Placement exams this past year, District officials report.

The number of students scoring a 3, 4 or 5 on at least one AP exam increased by 26.5 percent, with 166 more students passing an exam in 2008-2009 than in 2007-2008, according to Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee. She said the gains were distributed across subgroups with increases for white and African-American students. Twice as many Hispanic students also passed at least one exam.

Appearing with Mayor Adrian M. Fenty at a late afternoon press conference Wednesday at Columbia Heights Educational Campus, Rhee attributed the gains to better preparation. She said for the first time in recent history, DCPS teachers were required last year to have a College Board-approved syllabus for each AP course offering. The District also launched a pilot Saturday AP Academy at Columbia Heights and Cardozo High School attended by about 200 students.

"We are proud of our kids and the progress they've made and look forward to continuing to make progress," Rhee said.

The College Board also reported this week that average SAT scores in the District for public and private students dipped for graduates in the class of 2009 compared to the year before. Mean scores in critical readng went from 470 to 466, while mean math scores dropped from 455 to 451. Rhee said the numbers appear to be following national trends. She also said that the District would increase its level of preparation for PSATs and SATs much as it had for the DC-CAS standardized tests, on which students have shown gains over the last two years.

"We want to apply the same rigor to that that we have for other standardized tests," she said.

Bill Turque

By Bill Turque  |  August 27, 2009; 12:31 PM ET
Categories:  Bill Turque , Education  
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Comments

Here’s my cynical prediction (and I’m counting on you, Bill, to report the full information when you get it).

- The AP scores went down in more areas than they went up. * I predict they went down considerably in some areas.

- The one area AP scores definitely went up in is Spanish – by Hispanic kids who attend Columbia Heights. They were required to take advanced placement Spanish, a language they already speak, to bolster scores. Still I predict few if any of the passing Spanish scores were 5’s.

- the SAT scores were dragged down by DCPS, which we’ll find out when/if the scores are publicly announced by private/public segmenting. Rhee and Fenty know this already but hope we forget by the time it’s announced. See * below.

* (The 2009 AP scores aren’t published yet on the college board site, so only people on the inside know what the total scores are. Scores will be posted soon, so Rhee and Fenty wanted to upstage the coming bad news with selected good news. This is reminiscent of celebrating Sousa middle school making APY for the first time, while not mentioning that Shaw’s scores declined, despite paying the kids for attendance, behavior and grades and hiring a whole new staff)

Posted by: efavorite | August 27, 2009 4:13 PM | Report abuse

You will also find that at Columbia Heights, even as more students are taking AP tests, the scores are not going up. After so many years of "AP for All" the school is not doing a better job of preparing students to succeed on the AP tests, just enrolling more students to take the test. Maybe scores would improve over the long term if there was a stable teaching staff at the school. But no, we are told that has nothing to do with student achievement. Right.

Posted by: scinerd1 | August 27, 2009 10:50 PM | Report abuse

The news that AP scores are up is great for the children of DC. However, this is not a success that Rhee or Fenty can claim because this is related to achievement before their watch began. While the children earned the scores last year, the academic preparation began long before either of them came along.

Both efavorite and scienerd1 are absolutely correct in all of their points.

Posted by: southyrndiva | August 28, 2009 10:43 AM | Report abuse

Southnydiva - I speculated that the AP scores are down, not up, except for "at least one" test - which I guess is spanish among native speakers of spanish - we will see.

Meanwhile, I compared 08/09 public-private DC results and see reading is down 5 in public schools and up 5 and 2 in private schools, while math is pretty flat.

See for yourself: Just google "SAT scores by state" then add the year you want.

Posted by: efavorite | August 28, 2009 11:32 AM | Report abuse


2008 critical reading average:
502 National
409 public schools DC
(Spread, 93 points)
-----
2009 critical reading averages:
501 National
405 public schools DC
(spread, 96 points)
----
In other words, DC is down three points from the national average between 08 and 09. Not much, but not “following national trends” either. The movement is down for DC, and up nationally. (I’m assuming public schools includes charters)

Posted by: efavorite | August 28, 2009 12:01 PM | Report abuse

I am curious if the percentage of 5s , 4s and 3s on the AP exams went up. Many schools are encouraging more students to try AP classes. Overall this is a good thing as more students are being challenged. The trick of course will be to keep the course standards and expectations high as there are perhaps some students that are not quite as prepared for the class as they have been in the past.

Anyways, I would like to know the percentages of students scoring 3,4 or 5 on the AP exam. Obviously if more students take the exams you will have more of all these scores. The way the stat was presented it sounds like they were talking about the total numbers of 3,4 or 5s, not as a percentage of the exams given.

Mike - Total Registration, LLC
http://www.TotalRegistration.net
Helping high schools simplify the AP exam registration process by registering students for the exams online.

Posted by: mikeeco | August 28, 2009 3:45 PM | Report abuse

mikeeco - that wasn't a "stat" -- that was spin. I doubt we'll be seeing many "3s,4s, and 5s" Maybe a few 3s and overall fewer passing scores than last year - but the 5s will stick in your mind -- that's the idea.

Posted by: efavorite | August 28, 2009 4:50 PM | Report abuse

efavorite is correct about sourcing impressive overall AP pass numbers in the native speakers of another language, at least for previous years, for which I've seen school-specific numbers. Pathetic, then, is the number of students with the advantage of bilingualism who get respectable scores on the Literature exam.
No, it is worse than that. Find the number who even take courses and then the AP exam in the rich Spanish literature of 2-3 continents.

Respectable score? Dr. Art Siebens take on AP scores was that a "2" didn't qualify for AP credit at any college or university, but that to score that high a student needed to demonstrate soid high-school level mastery. That said, go to the numbers from the College Board and find the overwhelming fraction of DCPS students who earn the same "1s" on their AP tests as are earned by just signing in and marking answer sheets randomly.

Posted by: incredulous | August 28, 2009 7:22 PM | Report abuse

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