New figures show that 16.9 percent of students in last spring’s graduating class scored a 3 or better on one or more Advanced Placement exams by the time they graduated, up from 15.9 percent in 2009 and 10.8 percent in 2001.
The exam is scored on a scale of 1 to 5, with 3 considered passing. The report released this month by the College Board, the New York City-based organization that runs the AP curriculum-and-testing program, says that students who score 3 or higher are more likely to succeed in college courses.
Of the 3 million students in last year’s graduating class, 28.3 percent took an AP exam sometime in high school, up from 26.4 percent in 2009 and 16.8 percent in 2001.
As the popularity of AP courses and exams grows, however, fewer tests get a passing grade, a continuing trend that College Board officials have said is to be expected as the testing pool widens to include more students who have not previously had access to good preparation. In the class of 2010, 56.1 percent of the exams taken received a passing grade, compared with 56.5 in 2009 and 60.8 percent in 2001.
Far more “traditionally underserved” students—those from low-income homes or ethnic and racial minority groups—are taking part in the AP program, College Board data also show. Between 2001 and 2010, the number of African-American students who took an ap exam tripled. Participation by Latino students nearly tripled, and participation by low-income students nearly doubled between 2006, the first year the College Board reported data in that category, and 2010.
But African-American and Latino students continue to be underrepresented among students who take and pass the tests, the data show.
A version of this article appeared in the February 23, 2011 edition of Education Week as AP Passing Rates Rose For Last Year’s Seniors