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Mixed Student Achievement Results on SAT and Advanced Placement

September 27, 2013

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – West Virginia recorded the largest number of Advanced Placement (AP) exams ever taken by public school students last school year according to the College Board’s recently released Annual Student Achievement Report. Additionally, students are making strides above the national average on parts of the Scholastic Aptitude Test or SAT. However, even with the progress on these benchmarks of achievement, significant work remains to increase performance in AP and on the SAT exam. Under the direction of West Virginia Board of Education and the West Virginia Superintendent of Schools James Phares, state partners will increase their effort to improve AP performance and achievement among the state’s public school students.

According to the report, 10,480 AP exams were taken by 6,345 West Virginia public school students last May. That number is a slight increase from the previous year and represents the largest number of AP exams taken in a year by state students. Of this number, approximately 42 percent earned a score of three, four or five which is accepted by most colleges for credit and/or advanced placement. This rate remains a point of critical concern as the state continues to work to increase AP participation and performance.

“State partners have worked for years to increase not only the number of students taking AP courses, but also the percentage of students passing these exams,” said Dr. Dixie Billheimer, CEO of the West Virginia Center for Professional Development (WVCPD). This state agency provides professional development for AP teachers. “We are pleased that schools are actively recruiting students into these courses, however, our efforts remain focused on equipping the teachers, students and families with the tools needed to succeed.”

West Virginia made some strides among African American students with an almost 25 percent increase in these students taking the AP exam, and a 15 percent increase in the number earning a three, four or five. These percentages represent a low number of students at 222 and 59 respectively.

Phares is working with Billheimer and other partners including to the West Virginia Board of Education, the Office of Education and the Arts, the Higher Education Policy Commission and the College Board to renew and increase the state’s commitment to a series of goals that strengthen student performance in AP.

In addition to AP scores, the Annual Student Achievement Report showed that 2344 public school students took the SAT. The SAT is a globally recognized college admission test that lets students show colleges what they know and how well they can apply that knowledge. It tests students’ knowledge of reading, writing and math.

In 2013, West Virginia students outperformed students across the nation in reading with a score of 509 compared to 491. Public school students also scored higher on the writing portion of the exam with a score of 494 compared to 480. However, state students lagged behind the national average of 503 in math with a score of 497.

West Virginia reading and math scores dropped slightly from 2012 to 2013. In reading, the score dropped from 514 in 2012 to 509 in 2013. In math, the average mean score dropped from 500 in 2012 to 497 in 2013. The good news is that West Virginia public school student scores increased by one point in writing from 493 in 2012 to 494 in 2013.

In 2013, African American students performed significantly worse on the reading portion of the SAT with a drop from 451 in 2012 to 436.  White student scores also dropped from 517 in 2012 to 512 in 2013.

In math, African American student scores increased by nine points from 432 in 2012 to 441 in 2013. Meanwhile, white student scores dropped from 502 in 2012 to 498 in 2013.    

In writing, African American students scored 431 in 2013, a drop of two points from the previous year. White students increased their score by two points with a score of 497 in 2013.

“I am proud of our students and educators but these results clearly show we still have a long way to go,” said Phares. “I believe that as our teachers continue to implement the West Virginia Next Generation Content Standards and Objectives, all students will graduate from high school prepared for success in a career or in college.”

The SAT exam is the most popular college entrance exam for private schools and those on the East and West coasts. Most college-bound students in the South and Midwest, including West Virginia, opt to take the ACT instead of the SAT. Both exams are accepted for consideration for the PROMISE Scholarship, West Virginia’s merit-based scholarship.  The College Board oversees the SAT and the AP program.

For more information, contact Christy Day in the West Virginia Center for Professional Development at (304) 558-0539 or the West Virginia Department of Education Communication Office at (304) 558-2699. 

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