For immediate release
September 14, 2011
Kathy Toelkes, Director of Communications, 785-296-4876
State SAT scores moderate as participation rate increases
More students taking AP exams, especially among Hispanic and
African American populations
TOPEKA – After a significant plunge last year, the number of Kansas public school graduates participating on the SAT college entrance exam was back up in 2011, according to information released today by The College Board. Kansas public school participation rates jumped 18.1 percent in 2011, after having dropped 15.5 percent in 2010. The significant change in the number of test takers each year impacted mean scores in reading, math and writing. When participation rates dropped in 2010, scores were up between nine and 17 points; when the number of test takers shot back up in 2011, mean scores dropped between five and 12 points.
Typically, scores will go down as the number of test takers go up, and scores go up as the number of test takers go down. While Kansas has traditionally had a small percentage of students taking part in the SAT, in 2010 the percent of Kansas public school graduates taking the exam dropped to a low of 4 percent. In 2011, the number of public school graduates taking the exam was up to 6 percent.
“While it can be alarming to see that Kansas scores have dropped by 5 percentage points or more in just one year, it does appear those changes are more a factor of the number of students taking the exam than a change in the preparation of Kansas students,” said Education Commissioner Dr. Diane DeBacker. “Kansas students still score quite high on the SAT as compared to the nation and even when compared to states with a similar percentage of students participating.”
Kansas public school graduates posted a mean score of 590 out of a possible 800 on the critical reading exam, down 12 points from 2010 but up four points from 2009 when the public school participation rate was 5 percent. The mean score on the math exam was 598 in 2011, down five points from 2010 and up four points from 2009. The mean score on the writing exam was 569, down nine points from 2010 and up three points from 2009. Over the past five years, Kansas public school students’ scores in reading and math are up four points, while scores in writing are down by a point.
The number of Kansas public school students taking Advanced Placement (AP) exams is up nearly 13 percent from the previous year, and the population of students participating in the exams is more diverse. In 2011, the number of Hispanic students taking AP exams increased 34.1 percent and the number of African American students taking the exams increased nearly 15 percent. At the same time, the number of exams taken by Kansas public school students receiving a score of three or higher is up by 8.6 percent from the previous year and by more than 40 percent over the past five years. A grade of three or higher on an AP exam is the score that typically earns college credit.
At least some of the increase both in the number of students participating in AP exams and in the diversity of those students can be attributed to two grants – an Advanced Placement Fee Reduction grant and an Advanced Placement Incentive (API) program grant. The Fee Reduction grant has been available in Kansas for many years and it provides funds to cover the cost for low-income students to take AP exams. The API grant was awarded to the state three years ago and it encourages schools to offer AP courses by helping provide for start-up costs, as well as costs associated with professional development and vertical teaming. Over the past two years, the state has seen a 40 percent increase in fee reduction requests. The Fee Reduction grant will continue to be available in Kansas; the API grant was not renewed for the coming year, however the state is able to continue distributing monies carried over from the original grant through May 2012.