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After years of SAT score declines, city students break the trend

SAT scores of city public school students rose slightly over last year’s scores, bringing a four-year trend of declining performance to an end, according to data released by the Department of Education today.

The average city SAT score was five points higher on the reading portion of the test, four points higher on the math, and two points higher for writing. The gains are statistically significant, but not yet great enough to cancel out several years of loses. Today, the city’s average scores to roughly where they were two years ago.

City students’ average score was 439 out of 800 on the reading section, 462 on math, and 434 on writing.

The score increases are mainly due to improved results from Asian, white, and Hispanic students. Black students’ scores stagnated, except in the case of the writing SAT, where they fell by three points.

Another factor is the increasing number of students taking the SAT, but it’s not clear what effect this group of new test takers has had on scores.

As in years past, city officials noted that more minority students took the SATs this year and that many school districts and states have seen years of declining scores because of increased participation from lower performing students.

This year, about 4 percent more black students and 2 percent more Hispanic students sat for the college entrance exam. Fewer Asian students took the exam this year than last and white students’ participation rate held steady.

The city also released information today on how many students took and passed Advanced Placement exams, which test them on college level material they’ve studied in high school courses. More students are taking the AP exams — participation is up about 11 percent over last year, with most of the growth from Asian and Hispanic students — and more are passing them.

Many more students are taking the exams in part because the city has many more twelfth graders than it did eight years ago. With fewer students dropping out, the number of high school seniors has grown by 48 percent since 2002. In the same period, participation in the AP exams has grown by 60 percent.