15% of High School Seniors Passed an A.P. Test Last Year

Roughly 8,000 of last year’s New York City high school seniors, or about 15 percent, passed at least one Advanced Placement exam, the city said on Wednesday.

In 2002, when Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg took control of the school system, about 6,000 students passed at least one Advanced Placement test, which is equivalent to a passing grade in a college-level course. Yet it wasn’t immediately possible to calculate how much of a percentage gain this represented, because the city did not provide data for how many seniors there were back then (presumably there were fewer, because graduation rates have been rising).

That ambiguity did not stop Cathleen P. Black, the schools chancellor, from trumpeting the results, released by the College Board, which administers the Advanced Placement tests. “These results show that our work on college-readiness is already bearing fruit, and our students should be proud of their achievements,” she said in a statement. “But, we have to do much more work to ensure all of our students are ready to succeed in college.”

City officials have been on the defensive about the issue of college readiness after a state report issued on Monday said that the city’s college-ready graduation rate in 2009 was only 23 percent, less than half of the current graduation rate of 64 percent.

Ms. Black published an op-ed in the Daily News on Wednesday arguing that there “are better, more rigorous predictors of college success” than the Regents exams used by the state in determining its college-ready graduation rate.

In the op-ed, Ms. Black dismissed a proposal floated by state officials to raise the passing bar on the English and Math Regents to 75 and 80 respectively, the scores the state said predicted college-readiness.

“It’s one thing to talk about the vastness of our education challenges,” Ms. Black wrote. “But if the state agrees that we need to do the hard work to get our kids college-ready, it is time for them to stop fiddling around the edges with cut scores, make a real commitment and invest in our kids’ future.”

Interestingly, the city did not seem to make a similar attack against the Regents exams when the same tests and scores were used as the basis for the raising of the bar on elementary and middle school tests last summer. That change caused the number of students in the third through eighth grades considered proficient in math and English to plummet.

“Our kids need rigorous material and critical thinking – and not just the minimally required exams – to be prepared for the work in college,” Ms. Black said in the statement on Wednesday.

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