Nearly one in five public high school graduates in the class of 2012 passed an Advanced Placement exam, reflecting a steady increase in performance over the past decade, data released last week by the College Board show.
In last year’s class, 19.5 percent of all graduates scored a 3 or higher, which is considered a passing grade on the exams’ scale of 1 to 5. That is up from 18.1 percent who passed in 2011 and 11.6 percent in the class of 2002.
The AP program is expanding as well. There were 954,070 public school students who took at least one AP exam last year (32.4 percent of 2012 graduates), compared with 904,794 (30.2 percent) the year before and 471,404 (18 percent) in 2002, according to Trevor Packer, the senior vice president for AP and college readiness for the College Board, the New York City-based nonprofit organization that sponsors the exams.
Among AP test-takers, 60.1 percent received a score of 3 or higher, compared with 59.8 percent for the class of 2011. The percentage of students who scored a 5 was the highest in a decade (14.2 percent), Mr. Packer said.
One explanation for the increase in performance, he said, may be that more students are not only enrolling in AP courses but also taking the exams—a reflection of the increasing competitiveness of higher education and the rising value of AP scores in the application process. Also, the College Board’s efforts to audit and redesign AP has improved the quality of course instruction that may have led to better scores, Mr. Packer added.
The report notes that minority students are still much less likely than white or Asian students to take the AP exams and also less likely to perform at high levels on them. Of the successful 2012 test-takers, nearly 62 percent were white, while 16 percent were Latino and 4.4 percent were African-American.
A version of this article appeared in the February 27, 2013 edition of Education Week as Report Points to Steady Increase in Passing Rates for AP Exams