The number of students earning qualifying grades on Advanced Placement (AP) exams has more than doubled in Missouri in the past decade, but participation in the program continues to lag behind most other states.
Students generally are required to score a 3 or better on the exams to earn college credit.
Last year, 5,554 Missouri graduates scored a 3 or better on one or more AP exams during high school, compared to 2,566 graduates in 2002, according to the annual AP Report to the Nation, released Wednesday. While more students are succeeding on the exams, Missouri ranks 48th among all 50 states and the District of Columbia in the percentage of students participating in the program.
"We are pleased to see an increasing number of students in Missouri successfully completing AP classes, but we must increase our efforts to help more young people benefit from these courses," Commissioner of Education Chris L. Nicastro said. "When students challenge themselves academically they acquire the critical thinking skills they need to succeed in college, other types of postsecondary training and careers."
Through the AP program, students take college-level classes during high school. Many colleges and universities offer college credit to students scoring a 3 or higher, on a 5 point scale, on the AP exams.
Research shows that students who take AP classes earn a higher grade point average in college and are more likely to obtain a degree.
While Missouri's participation in AP classes is low, the students who do take AP tests outperform the national average on passing the exams. Among the 2012 high school graduates taking one or more AP exam, 62.7 percent earned a score of 3 or higher, compared to 56.8 percent nationwide. Missouri students earned passing scores on more than 21,000 AP exams in 2012.
Missouri is also making progress on the number of disadvantaged and minority students successfully completing AP classes:
The number of low-income students scoring a 3 or higher has increased significantly, from 60 high school graduates in 2003 to 511 graduates in 2012.
The number of African-American students scoring a 3 or higher has more than doubled from 70 graduates in 2002 to 212 graduates in 2012.
The number of Hispanic/Latino students scoring a 3 or higher increased from 39 graduates in 2003 to 160 graduates in 2012.
Preparing students for college and careers is a primary goal of the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education's Top 10 by 20 initiative, which calls for education in Missouri to rank among the Top 10 states in the nation by 2020.