City shows gains in SAT and AP scores

SAT and AP exam scores increased throughout the city in 2015, an improvement that shows steady progress toward the city’s college readiness goals at a time when scores are declining nationwide.

SAT math and writing scores increased by three points each, while critical reading improved by four points. The city’s average SAT scores were 466 in math, 444 in reading and 439 in writing. The total number of students passing at least one Advanced Placement exam also increased by 5.9 percentage points.

Nationally, SAT scores dropped by eight points last year. In New York State, average test scores fell in math and writing, while staying the same in critical reading.

The city’s improved test scores come even as more students took both exams. In 2015, 728 more seniors took the SAT than in 2014 and 3,163 more students took at least one AP exam than in 2014, reflecting the city’s aggressive push to expand AP enrollment.

Chancellor Carmen Fariña heralded the test scores as a positive sign, in line with the priorities laid out by Mayor Bill de Blasio in a speech last month. De Blasio’s plan includes expanding access to AP classes, providing algebra for all students in 8th grade and arranging more college visits.

“I’m very encouraged to see more New York City students taking these exams and meeting the high bar that they set,” Fariña said in a statement. I look forward to building on these gains as we work to make college access and success a reality for all our students.”

Yet, the mayor still has a long way to go before he meets his goal of two-thirds college-readiness for all students. The College Board, the company that owns the SAT, defines college-readiness as scoring a 1550 on all three sections combined, and says students who earn that score have a 65 percent chance of achieving at least a B- average during their first year of college.

The average combined SAT score in New York is 1349, well below the benchmark for college readiness set by the College Board.

The mayor’s plan also calls for all high schools to have access to a full slate of five AP courses. A record 42,481 students took at least one AP exam this year, out of 144,567 total juniors and seniors.

The new scores suggest that New York City students are better positioned than ever to get into college,

“When you can get the large urban environments moving as a whole to increase the admissions enhancement strategies, that’s very, very promising,” said Gregory Wolniak, the director of the Center for Research on Higher Education Outcomes at New York University.

The difference between how black and Hispanic students scored compared to white students remained large, suggesting that the achievement gap remains a problem despite gains across all ethnicities. It is also widening, as scores increased more for white students than for black and Hispanic students. However, participation in the AP exams showed the largest gains among black and Hispanic students.

City Council member Inez Barron said she hopes the mayor’s initiatives will help increase both AP and SAT scores by wider margins in the future.

“He’s just a year and a half into this so I think that that’s a good beginning,” Barron said.