August 29, 2006
Director of Communications
Public Information Officer
The number of Virginia high school students who took Advanced Placement (AP) examinations jumped by nearly 12 percent this year, according to 2005-2006 test results released today by the College Board. The number of AP exams taken by Virginia high school students who qualified for college credit by earning a score of 3 or above also rose significantly as more African-American and Hispanic students took AP tests.
Virginia continued to have one of the highest participation rates in the nation on the SAT Reasoning Test with 73 percent of high school seniors overall and 67 percent of seniors in public high schools taking the test. The College Board said declines in average SAT scores for Virginia students mirrored nationwide results and were mainly attributable to a change in test-taking patterns caused by the introduction of a mandatory essay. The percentage of students in the commonwealth who took the SAT only once increased to 37.4 percent in 2006, compared with 34.2 percent in 2005. The College Board says that students who retake the SAT boost their overall score by an average of 30 points.
Advanced Placement Tests
This year, 49,877 Virginia high school students took at least one AP exam, an 11.9 percent increase over the previous year’s level of participation. The number of AP tests taken by Virginia students that earned a grade of 3 or above, generally qualifying for college credit, increased by 10.3 percent over 2005. Of the 90,464 examinations taken, 54,832, or 60.6 percent, received a grade of 3 or better.
“Teachers and principals across the commonwealth are identifying students with the potential to succeed in AP courses, including students who tend to be under-represented in these courses,” said Superintendent of Public Instruction Billy K. Cannaday, Jr. “As these students accept the challenge of AP courses, they increase their likelihood of success in college.”
More Virginia public high school students took AP tests during 2006 and more of those tests resulted in students qualifying for college credit. Of the Virginia students who took AP tests during 2006, 44,778, or 90 percent, were public school students. The number of Virginia public school students taking AP examinations increased 12.3 percent from 2005 to 2006, and the number of AP tests taken by public school students in the commonwealth increased by 13.2 percent.
The number of AP tests taken by Virginia public school students that earned a grade of 3 or above increased by 11 percent over 2005. Of the 80,729 AP exams taken by Virginia public school students this year, 48,018, or 59 percent, qualified for college credit.
The number of African-American public school students in Virginia taking at least one AP examination rose 18.1 percent in 2006, to 3,947, and the number of AP tests taken by black public school students in the commonwealth increased by 19.7 percent. Of the 6,151 AP exams taken by African-American public school students in the commonwealth 2,000 received a grade of 3 or better, an increase of 18.1 percent when compared with results of AP tests administered in 2005.
In addition, more of Virginia’s Hispanic public school students are taking AP courses and qualifying for college credit. The number of Hispanic students taking at least one AP examination rose 18.8 percent in 2006 to 2,309. Of the 3,772 AP tests taken by Hispanic public school students during 2006, 2,046 received a grade of 3 or above, which represented a 12.8 percent increase in the number of tests qualifying for college credit taken by Hispanic students.
Virginia vigorously promotes AP courses and other college-level courses through the Early College Scholars Program and the Virginia Virtual Advanced Placement School. Students become Early College Scholars by signing an Early College Scholar Agreement in their junior or senior year and completing the terms of the agreement upon high school graduation. To qualify as an Early College Scholar participant, a student must maintain a “B” average or better; be pursuing an Advanced Studies Diploma; and be completing or have completed college-level course work equal to at least 15 transferable college credits. History: United States; Government and Politics: United States; English Literature and Composition; and English Language and Composition are the most popular AP courses and examinations among Virginia students.
SAT Reasoning Test
A national decline in average scores on the SAT Reasoning Test was mirrored in the results for Virginia students on the college-admissions test, which for the first time included a mandatory essay. An analysis conducted by the College Board indicates that the addition of this writing examination discouraged students from retaking the test to earn a higher score. Thirty-seven percent of public school students in the commonwealth who took the SAT in 2005-2006 took the test only once, compared with 33.1 percent in 2005. Data suggest that some Virginia students chose to take the rival ACT college-admissions test rather than try to improve their performance on the SAT.
“As much as everyone would like to see an uninterrupted continuation of the decade-long upward trend in average SAT scores for Virginia students, we may find ourselves looking back on these results as a new baseline because of the significant changes made to the test,” said Dr.Cannaday.
A new mathematics section also introduced on the 2005-2006 SAT includes topics from third-year college-preparatory math, such as exponential growth, absolute value, functional notation, and negative and fractional exponents. Virginia students achieved an average score of 513 on the mathematics portion, which was down one point from 2005. The average score of public school students in Virginia on the mathematics portion of the test was 512, which also was down one point compared with 2005.
“Even with a significant increase in difficulty and fewer students retaking the SAT, Virginia students held on to most of the 6-point increase in mathematics they achieved in 2005,” said Board of Education President Mark E. Emblidge. “This underscores the importance of maintaining rigorous mathematics standards in middle school and high school.”
The national average score on the mathematics portion of the SAT for 2006 was 518 for all students and 514 for public school students. The national average for mathematics on the SAT dropped two points for students overall and was down one point for public school students.
Virginia students outperformed their counterparts nationwide on the new essay section of the test. The essays of Virginia students earned an average score of 500, compared with the national mean of 497. The essays of public school students in the commonwealth also achieved an average score of 497, compared with the national average writing score for public school students of 492.
Virginia ’s academic standards, known as the Standards of Learning (SOL), emphasize writing, and students are tested in writing in grades 5 and 8 and in high school. Students must pass the high school SOL writing test, or an assessment of equal rigor, to earn a standard or advanced diploma.
On the critical reading portion of the SAT, Virginia students achieved an average score of 512, which was a four-point decrease from 2005. Public school students in the commonwealth achieved an average critical reading score of 509, which represented a five-point decrease from the previous year. The national average on the critical reading portion of the SAT was 503 for all students and 500 for public school students. Both of these national averages were down five points when compared with 2005 results.
There was little change in the number of students in Virginia who took the SAT in 2006. Overall, 56,336 seniors took the test, which represented a decline of less than half a percentage point compared with participation in 2005. The number of public school students in the commonwealth who took the SAT increased by two-tenths of a percentage point, to 47,418.
While overall participation in SAT testing was relatively flat, the number of Hispanic public school students in Virginia taking the test increased by 8.3 percent, and participation by Asian students in the commonwealth increased by 7.6 percent.
“The growing number of students taking the SAT from groups that include significant numbers of English-language learners underscores the importance of the work the Board of Education is doing through its committee on literacy,” said Dr. Emblidge. The literacy committee’s tasks include a review of proposed revisions in the state’s Standards for English Language Proficiency and a review of issues related to the instruction and assessment of limited-English proficient students.
While the SAT remains the dominant college admissions test in the commonwealth, a record number of Virginia high school students took the ACT during 2006. During 2006, 11,519 Virginia students took the ACT, compared with 10,086 in 2005 and 6,191 during 2000.
The achievement of Virginia students on the ACT has risen significantly during the last four years. Last year, Virginia students achieved a composite score of 21.1 on the test, compared with 20.9 in 2005 and 20.5 in 2000. The ACT is scored on a scale of 1 to 36, with 36 being the highest possible score. ACT describes increases in achievement of 0.05 points or greater as statistically significant.