When I was growing up, a high school diploma was often all you needed to get a good job and start a good career. But in today's increasingly competitive global economy, a high school degree just doesn't cut it anymore. What employers are increasingly looking for is a college degree -- and in some cases, more than that. That's why the most important thing we can do for our children is making sure they're graduating from high school and ready to go to college or enter the working world.
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Over the past eight years, we've worked very hard to put our children on that path. As part of that commitment, we've expanded the number of academically selective secondary schools and vastly increased Advanced Placement offerings throughout the city -- especially in high schools where such courses haven't traditionally been offered. We've also developed a number of programs to help our students prepare for the SAT, including a free online SAT preparation course for all juniors and an intensive SAT prep course in 20 high schools across the city.
To encourage even more students to start preparing for college, we've been paying the fee for all 10th- and 11th-graders to take the PSAT, which has allowed us to substantially increase the number of students who take the practice test. And that's especially important because students who take the PSAT perform significantly better on the SAT than those who did not take the PSAT.
Now it looks like all of these efforts are paying off: last week, we released the results of the SATs that public high school students took in June. In all three areas of the test -- reading, math, and writing -- our students improved their average scores over the previous year. In fact, those gains outpaced the progress made by students in the rest of the country. And even though our average scores still lag behind the national average, we remain encouraged; Latino students were responsible for some of our biggest gains, and the number of black and Latino students who took the test has also increased.
Last week we also released the results of the Advanced Placement exams. Like this year's SAT results, they were also full of positive signs. For example, more than 15,000 students scored a passing grade on the tests -- a 12 percent increase over the previous year. And since 2002, the number of New York City students who took at least one AP exam jumped more than 60 percent.
We're determined to ensure that every student is prepared for college -- even those who might not be thinking about college right now. And we're determined to give all of our students the resources and support they need to reach the high standards necessary to thrive in today's world. It's what our children need -- and what they deserve.