Utah students outpace national averages on both the Advanced Placement and Scholastic Aptitude Test, according to results released Tuesday by the College Board.
On the 1998 SAT, Utah averaged 572 in verbal and 570 in math compared to national averages at 505 and 512 in verbal and math, respectively.On AP tests, Utah students for the 11th straight year outscored national peers qualifying to receive college credit for work done in high school, with a 68 percent pass rate. The national pass rate is 63 percent.
"We have a cadre of exceptional teachers who definitely go the extra mile," said Connie Amos, state AP education specialist. "Keep in mind, we put out the lowest per pupil expenditure ($3,596) in the nation. Our students are getting a lot of bang for the buck, and AP proves that."
Utah students' performance on the 1998 American College Test, whose results were released last month, also backs Amos' statement. On that test, 22,675 Utah test-takers averaged 21.6 out of 36; the national average was 21.
Yet Utah's 1998 AP pass rate fell 2.1 percent from last year, while national rates dipped just 0.2 percent. Utah numbers peaked in 1994 with a 72.6 percent pass rate compared to 66.1 percent nationally. That year, Utah students took 15,938 exams, some 2,000 fewer than this year.
Barbara Lawrence, state coordinator of evaluation and assessment, calls the scores positive and the decline a normal fluctuation with Utah's high participation rate.
"I think we've reached a threshold," she said. "We have students attempting to take more courses than they can handle so they are not able to do really well in every one and pass the course. Once we stabilize where students take a reasonable number of courses that can be passed in the high school years, our pass rate will go up slightly."
Although Lawrence does not discourage anyone from taking AP, students may consider taking AP courses that interest them rather than strive to enter college as a sophomore.
AP tests award college credit to those scoring at least 3 out of a possible 5 following rigorous course study. Utah students earned college credit in 29 subjects, with the highest pass rate at 77 percent in calculus. Seventy-two percent passed in English literature, 71 percent in English language, 67 percent in European History, 64 percent in biology and 49 percent in U.S. history.
Nationally, one-fourth of undergraduates enter college with AP exam grades, and some 35,000 high school graduates qualified to enter college as sophomores or juniors, the College Board reported.
- As for SAT scores, the 1,479 Utah students (4 percent of high school graduates) are among the lowest percentage in the nation along with Vermont and Mississippi.
"Generally, they are the top performing students in the state, hoping to go to Ivy League universities," Lawrence said.
Most Western colleges and universities use the ACT for entrance, taken by about 68 percent of the senior class. Still, about half of Utah SAT test-takers sent SAT scores to the University of Utah, with 23 percent and 18 percent of scores going to Brigham Young and Utah State universities, respectively. Utah test results also went to 680 other colleges and universities.
The national average math score of 512 is the highest in 27 years and one point above last year. But the plateaued 505 verbal score is just 6 points above record lows in 1991 and 1994. That may be explained by test-takers speaking English as a second language, up from 5 percent last decade to the current 8 percent, said Donald M. Stewart, president of the College Board.
Utah Advanced Placement participation and performance
Students taken UTAH NATION
1994 10,238 15,938 72.6% 66.1%
1995 10,110 15,907 70.0% 60.5%
1996 10,349 16,123 69.1% 62.0%
1997 11,343 17,796 69.9% 62.8%
1998 11,427 17,987 76.8% 62.6%
* Percentage of exams with a grade of 3 or higher
SAT test averages
Verbal 572 505
Math 570 512
Source: The College Board