Two days ago the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) released new information on Advanced Placement (AP) performance and SAT college entrance test results. The news about the AP in particular was really good – spectacularly good, in fact – actually, far too good to be true.
The racial breakout in the report indicated that between 2007 and 2008 the total umber of public school students taking at least one AP course had gone up from 13,246 to 14,687.
Meanwhile the total number of students scoring a 3, 4 or 5 (scores generally acceptable for college credit) had absolutely skyrocketed from 6,586 to 10,941, an incredible jump – 66 percent – in just one year. This indicated an astounding 74.5 percent of the 2008 AP takers had scored high enough to receive college credit, a huge jump from the 2007 percentage of 49.7 percent.
Well, it didn’t happen
I questioned the department right away about this unbelievable one-year change.
Within two hours the KDE press release was revised.
The revision now says the total number of public school students scoring in the magic 3-4-5 range in 2008 was only 7,144, not 10,941. Thus, the real rise in the total number of students getting college-accepted scores was only 8.5 percent, not 66 percent. The percentage of all students who took the AP in 2008 and got at least a three score was only 48.6 percent, not even as high as last year’s figure. Talk about a dramatic difference!
This gets more interesting
The revised KDE news release changes all the 2008 numbers for all the racial groups scoring 3-4-5. Instead of 9,246 whites scoring a three or more in 2008, the revised number is only 6,103. The number is up very slightly from 2007, but the number of whites taking the AP rose even faster from 2007 to 2008. As a consequence, 49.7 percent of Kentucky’s whites in public schools had a score of 3 or higher on the AP in 2007, but this dropped slightly to 48.6 percent in 2008. If the original release’s figures had snuck by us, you would be getting told about a dramatic rise from that 49.7 percent figure in 2007 to 73.8 percent in 2008.
That is a huge difference – slight decline in the percentage of whites getting college acceptable scores versus a very large increase.
For African-Americans, once the corrected scores came available, the original percentage of students scoring 3 or more shrank from 39 percent to only 29.6 percent for 2008, lower than the African-American success rate of 30.1 percent in 2007.
Then it gets strange
The KDE changed their numbers, but they forgot to change one of their lead sentences which says, “Since 2004, the number of Kentucky public high school students taking AP examinations and scoring 3, 4 or 5 has increased by more than 50 percent.” The truth is that between 2004 and 2008 the percentage increase is somewhat less at only 47 percent. However, using the numbers from the original news release, the claim should have been that the increase was 125 percent. I don’t know what the department was looking at when it assembled the first news release and came up with the slightly more than 50 percent figure. How did all these numbers get so messed up?
I have some additional questions about the data, even in the revised release. I’ll save that for a later post, once I learn more. But, one thing is certain; if you read any recent news articles claiming dramatic progress on AP participation and scores from last year – forget them. It didn’t happen. In fact, while the participation rates are up slightly, the percentages of success are down, which isn’t exactly that “great education progress” you’ve been hearing about.