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New Jersey’s largest teachers union believes the state’s public schools deserve recognition for a number of reasons. Among them: student performance on college-level exams.
"New Jersey's public school students have the best Advanced Placement scores in the nation," a page on the New Jersey Education Association’s website says, citing 2010 data.
With New Jersey students beginning another school year, PolitiFact New Jersey decided to check the union’s claim. On this statement, they get a perfect score.
Advanced Placement, or AP, exams are college-level tests scored on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the highest score. Three is considered a passing grade -- and is the minimum score most colleges require for a student to receive credit for the exam.
The New York-based College Board, which administers the AP tests, releases detailed charts breaking down student performance on AP exams in the 50 states and Washington, D.C. The most recent data available is from the 2009-2010 school year. Students’ scores from the most recent academic year won’t be released to the public until this fall, according to Kathleen Steinberg, a spokeswoman for the College Board.
Steinberg said the claim by the teachers union "is, in fact, an accurate statement." But, she said, the College Board doesn’t maintain rankings and doesn’t encourage anyone to rank states by performance because "you’re not comparing the same population."
Still, Steinberg said, "Everyone loves to do that. States love to do it." Especially, she said, if they do well.
And New Jersey did do well.
According to PolitiFact New Jersey’s analysis of the data, the average AP test score of 3.34 for public school students in the Garden State outranked students in the rest of the country. In New Jersey, 39,895 public school students took at least one AP exam in 2010.
The average score includes all exams taking during a school year. So, if one student took five exams, the scores from each of those five exams are included in the overall average.
New Jersey and Connecticut are tied for the highest average AP test score in the country for all students -- including both public and private school students -- at 3.32. For New Jersey, that number includes 48,836 students who took at least one AP exam. For Connecticut, it includes 25,646 students.
New Jersey, Iowa, Montana, North Dakota, Utah and Vermont are the only states where the average AP test score is higher for students who attended public school than the average score of all students in the state.
As far as why New Jersey is doing well on the test, Gregg Fleisher, national AP training and incentives program director for the Texas-based National Math and Science Initiative, said, "obviously: good schools, good teachers and good communities."
But, Fleisher argued that average test score isn’t the most important metric because "it rewards exclusivity."
If more students took the AP test in New Jersey, he said the state’s "mean scores and percent passing would likely go way down."
Steve Baker, a spokesman for the NJEA, said the fact that New Jersey public school students are scoring well on college-level exams "shows that New Jersey public schools are doing an exceptionally good job." But, Baker noted, the average AP test score is just one of a "broad array of indicators" the teachers union looks at to evaluate performance of public schools.
The NJEA claims the state’s public school students have the best Advanced Placement test scores in the country.
PolitiFact New Jersey compared the average AP test scores for students across the nation and found New Jersey’s public school students rank first.
A spokeswoman for the College Board said her organization doesn’t compile rankings -- and doesn’t encourage others to do so -- but confirmed the union's statement was accurate.
We rate this statement True.
To comment on this ruling, go to NJ.com.
NJEA, New Jersey's public school students have the best Advanced Placement scores in the nation, accessed Aug. 30, 2011
College Board, AP State Summary Reports for 2010, accessed Aug. 30, 2011
College Board, AP Report to the Nation, Feb. 9, 2011
PolitiFact New Jersey, spreadsheet compiled from College Board data, created Aug. 30, 2011
Interview with Gregg Fleisher, national director of the AP training and incentive program for the
National Math and Science Initiative, Aug. 31, 2011
Interview with Kathleen Steinberg, spokeswoman for the College Board, Aug. 31, 2011
Interview with Steve Baker, spokesman for the New Jersey Education Association, Aug. 31, 2011
College Board, Choose AP, accessed Aug. 31, 2011
College Board, Frequently Asked Questions on AP, accessed Aug. 31, 2011
College Board, The Score-Setting Process, accessed Aug. 31, 2011
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