Increase in Advanced Placement Student Success Achieved in All 50 States

Increase in Advanced Placement Student Success Achieved in All 50 States

President in State of the Union Calls for More AP(R) Teachers New York, Maryland, Utah, California, Virginia, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Florida Lead the Way; Record-Breaking Gains in Arkansas


Washington, DC–(HISPANIC PR WIRE – US Newswire)–February 7, 2006–On the 50th anniversary of the Advanced Placement Program(R) (AP(R)), the College Board, the not-for-profit membership association that administers the AP Program, has released the second annual Advanced Placement Report to the Nation, showing that all 50 states and the District of Columbia have achieved an increase in the percentage of high school students earning a grade of 3 or higher in college-level AP courses since 2000.

“We must encourage our kids to take more challenging courses, and the Advanced Placement program has been proven to make a difference in student performance,” said Secretary Spellings. “Under the President’s AP Incentive program, we will increase the number of students taking AP math and science exams from 380,000 today to 1.5 million by 2012.”

In the nation’s public schools, 14.1 percent of students in the class of 2005 demonstrated mastery of an AP Exam by earning an exam grade of 3 or higher—the grade predictive of college success(1) —on one or more AP Exams while in high school. This is up from 13.2 percent for the class of 2004 and 10.2 percent for the class of 2000. Although 35 states and the District of Columbia have lower results than the nationwide average of 14.1 percent, every single state and the District of Columbia saw a greater proportion of its class of 2005 score a 3 or higher than occurred within its class of 2000. AP achievements for each state’s class of 2000 and class of 2005 are detailed in the report. (See AP Report to the Nation, Table 1, page 5.)

These achievements are noteworthy because, over the last five years, the U.S. public high school population has increased by more than 100,000 students. U.S. schools have done more than maintain the proportion of students who succeed on an AP Exam before graduating from high school—they have increased that proportion from 10 percent to 14 percent.

Furthermore, the achievement in spreading AP courses is elevating the quality of our nation’s secondary school classrooms. The Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (formally known as the Third International Mathematics and Science Study) found that while the rest of U.S. students ranked at the bottom of advanced math and physics achievement among developed nations, the U.S. AP Calculus and AP Physics students, even those who failed to earn a successful AP Exam grade, were competitive in math and science achievement with students from the top-performing nations(2). Furthermore, students who take AP math and science courses in high school are much more likely than other students to continue a course of study in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) majors than students who do not take such courses in high school(3). In his State of the Union address on January 31, President George W. Bush called for the training of 70,000 high school teachers over five years for Advanced Placement science and math courses.

“Educators and leaders at the federal, state, district, and school levels deserve tremendous credit for enabling a wider segment of our nation’s youth than ever before to achieve success on an AP Exam,” said College Board President Gaston Caperton. “Participation in AP has remarkable benefits for students; most notably, AP math and science courses are enabling American students to develop a level of math and science expertise that exceeds that of students from all other nations; the AP world language courses are developing our students’ capacity to engage with Asian and European cultures, while AP English and social science courses develop the skills necessary for students to write effectively, think critically, and engage with great minds from the world’s cultures.”

Maintaining Quality in the AP Classroom

The Report shows that the quality of learning in AP classrooms has remained steady as schools have invited more students to take on the challenge of an AP course. AP Examinations use standards that are set by college and university professors who administer AP Exam questions to their own students and identify the knowledge and skills that must be demonstrated on each question. To ensure that each AP Exam, from year to year, is of equivalent difficulty and rigor, selected multiple-choice questions, which are not disclosed, are woven back into subsequent AP Exams, enabling psychometricians and statisticians to ensure that an AP Exam grade one year represents the same level of content mastery as in previous years.

The Report includes graphs for four high-volume AP Examinations and shows that the students who took AP Exams in 2005 are achieving learning outcomes equivalent to those experienced by the smaller, less diverse AP student population who took AP Exams in earlier years.

“Across AP Exams, there are no statistically significant increases or decreases in content mastery from 2001 to 2005, indicating that educators have done a tremendous job of preserving quality and learning outcomes even while increasing the number of students who have access to AP,” said Caperton.

To assist schools in maintaining the quality of courses labeled “AP” as these opportunities continue to expand, beginning in fall 2006, [in the soon-to-be-published AP Policy Guides] the College Board is implementing an AP Course Audit designed to ensure that each course labeled “AP” provides students with the content knowledge and resources needed for them to have a successful, college-level experience while still in high school.

Equity Gaps in AP

Despite increased diversity in the AP classroom, African American and Native American students remain significantly underrepresented in AP classrooms. Nationwide, African American students make up 13.4 percent of the student population, but only 6.4 percent of AP Exam takers, and Native Americans make up 1.1 percent of the student population, but only 0.5 percent of the AP examinee population. (See AP Report to the Nation, Figure 5, page 11.)

Latino students are well represented in AP classrooms nationally—they represent 13.4 percent of the student population and 13.6 percent of AP Examinees. However, Latino students remain underrepresented in AP programs in many states.

The Report warns that despite the strides that have been made by educators to provide traditionally underrepresented students with AP courses, lower performances on AP Exams indicate that many high-potential teachers and students are not receiving adequate preparation for the rigors of an AP course. As a result, traditionally underrepresented students currently demonstrate significantly lower performances on AP Exams.

“Major initiatives are needed to ensure that all students are adequately prepared starting in middle school so that students will have a fair shot at AP success when they reach high school,” said Caperton. “And just as important, as America’s classrooms continue to diversify, new programs must be initiated to build schools’ capacities to offer AP courses to all student populations, especially underserved minority students and young people from rural America.”

Such initiatives, based in legislation designed to expand access to AP courses, have been successful in many states. In Arkansas last year, policy legislation resulted in record-breaking improvements in AP participation, particularly among traditionally underrepresented African American, Hispanic, and low-income students. Beginning with the 2008-09 school year, Arkansas legislation mandates that all school districts provide AP courses in each of the four core areas of mathematics, English, science, and social studies. Thereafter, the districts must add at least one core course each year. Arkansas is covering the cost of the AP Exams for all students and is providing schools with professional development funds.

The results of Arkansas’s initiatives are unparalleled; in just one year’s time, Arkansas doubled the number of students participating in AP, more than doubled the number of Hispanic students and low-income students participating in AP, and more than tripled the number of African American students participating in AP. Across the entire fifty-year history of the AP Program, there have never been such large increases in participation, particularly among traditionally underserved students, achieved in a single year.

Celebrating Exemplary AP High Schools

Part II of the Advanced Placement Report to the Nation uses data from all schools participating in AP worldwide to identify schools currently leading in AP participation and performance. This year California, Florida, and Texas have the most schools (public and independent) cited in the Report.

Part II also includes performance information for each of the AP subject areas and feedback on student learning from past AP Exams so AP teachers and administrators can revise and refocus their syllabi to address weaknesses or deficiencies in their curricula.

The College Board’s Advanced Placement Program enables students to pursue college-level studies while still in high school. Thirty-five courses in 20 subject areas are offered. Based on their performance on rigorous AP Exams, all of which require students to craft written responses to open-ended questions that are scored by current college faculty and AP consultants, students can earn credit, advanced placement, or both for college.

“AP benefits students, educators, and schools,” said Caperton. “The number of students participating in AP has more than doubled in 10 years, and today almost 15,000 U.S. schools offer AP courses. Students who succeed on an AP Exam are more likely to complete college. More often than not they have achieved a mastery of writing, sophisticated study habits, and a penchant for critical reasoning. Teachers who participate in AP professional development improve as teachers in general, not just as teachers of AP classes. And it is often the case that schools that participate in AP experience a diffusion of higher academic standards throughout their entire curriculum.”

Leading the Nation

— New York leads the nation: Nearly 23 percent of students in New York’s class of 2005 earned an AP Exam grade of 3 or higher while in high school.

— This year Maryland and Utah joined New York in seeing more than 20 percent of their students achieve such AP results.

— California, Virginia, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Florida are all poised to achieve that milestone soon, perhaps with this year’s graduating class.

The Most Improvement

— Maryland, North Carolina, Washington, Connecticut, Delaware, and Florida have seen the greatest amount of positive change since 2000 in the proportion of students who succeed on an AP Exam in high school.

— The states that achieved the largest expansion of successful AP Exam performance from 2004 to 2005: Oregon, Delaware, Alaska, Arkansas, Maine, Maryland, New York, Virginia, and Washington.

Eliminating Equity Gaps

— Florida, Maryland, and the District of Columbia have each achieved the significant milestone of seeing Latino student representation in AP courses outpace Latino student representation in non-AP courses.

— California and Texas, states with large Latino populations, are within reach of this goal.

1. Each AP Exam is scored using a five-point scale: 5—Extremely well qualified; 4—Well qualified; 3—Qualified; 2—Possibly qualified; 1—No recommendation.

2. Eugenio J. Gonzalez, Kathleen M. O’Connor, and Julie A. Miles. 2001. “How Well Do Advanced Placement Students Perform on the TIMSS Advanced Mathematics and Physics Tests?” Chestnut Hill, MA: The International Study Center, Lynch School of Education, Boston College.

3. Rick Morgan and Behroz Maneckshana. 2000. AP Students in College: An Investigation of Their Course-Taking Patterns and College Majors. Report No. SR-2000-09. Princeton, NJ: Educational Testing Service.

Increase in Advanced Placement Student Success Achieved in All 50 States