Nationwide, about 16% of students took advance placement courses in high school and earned a score of 3 or higher, says the College Board’s 6th Annual AP Report to the Nation. Increasing numbers of African American, Latino and American Indian students are also participating in AP, although African American and American Indian students are still significantly underrepresented.
For the second year, Maryland had the largest percentage of students that took AP courses and received a score of 3 (24.8%). Florida, which has the largest number of students taking AP courses saw the biggest 1-year jump in those who scored a 3 (a 3.1% change for a total of 21.3%) and Florida saw the biggest 5-year increase ( a 5.8% change for a total of 22.9%). Eighteen states equaled or exceeded the national percentage of 15.9%.
“If the U.S. is to succeed in shrinking the gap between those who enter college and those who complete a degree, the gulf between high school graduation standards and first-year college course requirements must be eliminated,” the report says.
“While some recent research shows how exposing students to the college-level standards inherent in AP courses can lead to college success (even for those students who score 1s or 2s on an AP exam), the likelihood of college success is stronger for those students who score a 3 or higher.”
While test participation overall has increased dramatically over time, the percentage of AP exams with a passing score has declined, according to College Board. The data show that 56.5% of tests taken by the class of 2009 earned a score of 3 or higher, compared with 60.8% for the class of 2001.
Many initiatives are needed to prepare middle school students and 9th and 10th graders so that all students have an equitable chance at success when they take AP courses, the report says.
In 2005, the National Governors’ Association for Best Practices, launched an AP expansion project as part of an initiative to improve high schools. Fifty-one schools in 6 states (Wisconsin, Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Maine and Nevada) received funding for pilot projects.
Among some of the schools’ innovations:
- To expand access, Georgia schools asked AP students who were athletes and cheerleaders to recruit new AP students
- Several schools used virtual learning technology to expand AP enrollment in rural areas
- Many schools offered students an extra grade point for taking AP courses
- Kentucky offered college scholarship awards for low-income students based on their AP Exam performance
- To build teacher capacity, Maine had a mentoring initiative for new teachers and Wisconsin and Nevada had weeklong summer institutes for teachers.
“The 6th Annual AP Report to the Nation,” College Board, February 10, 2010.