Delaware’s Department of Education released a series of statistics the other day about the state’s Advanced Placement (AP) and SAT participation rate. The AP program — in case some are unfamiliar with the process — gives high school students a chances to take classes which, depending on the result of a final standardized exam, can earn them college credit. The classes are generally considered more rigorous and involve material that would otherwise be offered at the freshman-in-college level of education.
I won’t attempt to recreate all of the many statistics in the release. I do, however, find some issue with the way the findings are reported.
None of the SAT statistics listed in the release seem to carry any relevance at all (SAT scores are purposely based around 500 as the mean score—neither Delaware nor the nation should ever deviate greatly from that mean, and they don’t), except perhaps the 8th in the nation for SAT participation rate. Even this statistic, though, likely overstates the importance of the ranking. Given that a number of states have very low SAT participation rates due to ACT competition, the significance of being ranked 8th is impossible to determine. A better ranking would perhaps include a combined ACT and SAT participation rate, rather than focus on either test individually. As it stands, I am not sure whether to be pleased or disappointed with our arbitrary ranking.
As for our AP score increases, Delaware reportedly outpaced the nation in its increase of 3s or higher on AP exams from 2009 — 11.9% to 9.4% nationally. The statistics given are difficult to base much on without elaboration (does the national average include private/parochial schools or not, since the Delaware statistic does not), but on its face, this is at least some good news in education when Delaware has received rather poor rankings elsewhere. I am hesitant to ascribe too much importance to AP score results, however, since they do not necessarily reflect the education system at large. It’s not bad news, at least, especially for those students who are actually receiving the college credit they have earned.
I give credit to Secretary of Education Lillian Lowery for doing a commendable job in recognizing that these findings do little to rectify the poor educational state in Delaware:
“While the AP results show we are making progress, there is a great deal of work that needs to be done so that our students are prepared for postsecondary education. We cannot make the excuse that our students are following the national trends in SAT results. As educators we need to do better because our students expect us to, and they deserve better.”
I couldn’t have said it better myself.