NEWS

AP scores show Illinois moving toward
“Second to None”— McGee

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Chicago – Illinois public high school students notched the top average score in the nation on the 2000 Advanced Placement (AP) exam administered by the College Board, which also gives the SAT college entrance examination. 

This year’s graduating class posted an average score of 3.29 on a 1 to 5 scale on the AP test. The nationally administered test assesses students’ skills and knowledge in courses that generally mirror collegiate-level work and align with the rigorous Illinois Learning Standards. 

“We have been talking for a long time about making Illinois education Second to None,” said State Superintendent of Education Glenn W. McGee. “This is a great step in that direction.  I am ecstatic, because these scores show that many of our students have committed themselves to being the best they can be. This is a tremendous achievement.” 

The number of students taking the exam grew as well. In Illinois, 29,944 students took one or more AP exams in May 2000. That total is up 12 percent over 1999, and up 46 percent from five years ago. In the Midwest, 131,794 students took the AP test in 2000. 

The AP scores were announced today along with the state’s SAT scores. Illinois students scored an average of 568 on the SAT Verbal test, down one point from last year; and an average of 586 on the SAT Math test, up one point from last year.  Both scores continue to far outpace the national averages of 505 on the Verbal test, and 514 on the math test. Each test has an 800-point scale. 

Compared to the ACT, only a small proportion of Illinois students take the SAT, largely because most Midwestern universities and colleges tend to favor the ACT.  The number of students taking the SAT in Illinois dropped to 15,748 (12 percent of this year’s graduating class), down 472 from 1999. In comparison, about 90,000 (72 percent) public and private high school graduates took this year’s ACT.

Both the SAT and ACT are strong indicators of students’ likely success in college and, equally important, of the value of Illinois’ standards-led educational system. 

The SAT results – and in particular, the AP figures – mirror what was evident with the ACT – students who took more demanding high school coursework showed stronger performance. Conversely, the results from both testing programs also showed a disparity in test scores and access to such curricula among minorities. 

“We must do everything we can to ensure that every student, regardless of his or her socioeconomic condition has every opportunity to succeed,” McGee said. “And that means making sure that all of our students are encouraged to try new courses that will challenge and excite them,” he said. Illinois recently received a $759,186 federal grant to help pay AP exam fees for lower income students. 

The percent of minority students taking one or more AP exams this year increased in every minority group. Still, of this year’s 29,944 AP test takers, only 9,038 were minorities. Of that number, 3,874 Asian, 1,566 African American and 2,201 Hispanic students took the AP. 

More telling, though, is the percent of students with scores in the 3 to 5 range. About 76 percent of white students’ test scores hit that target, compared to about 55 percent of scores for African American students and about 33 percent of Hispanic students’ scores. 

Finally, teachers should be encouraged to take better advantage of available training to teach the kind of coursework tested by the AP, SAT and ACT programs, McGee said. The College Board annually conducts dozens of teacher conferences and seminars showing educators successful teaching methods, said Paula T. Herron, College Board Associate Director for Academic Services. 

Illinois teachers, who now must engage in ongoing professional development for continued certification, can earn continuing professional development credits for such activities, McGee said.