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Vol. 45, No. 11
Feb. 9, 2011

More Missouri Students See Benefits of AP® Exams

State’s pass rate exceeds national average

The Class of 2010 provided a slight uptick in the number of students taking rigorous Advanced Placement® classes and scoring well on AP exams, state education officials said today.

According to the 7th Annual AP Report to the Nation, 4,682 of the state’s 62,502 seniors scored a 3 or higher on at least one AP exam during their high school careers.  This is an increase of about 300 students over the previous class. AP exams are scored on a range of 1-5.  Colleges and universities typically give college credit to those who earn scores of 3, 4 or 5.

Education officials said nearly half of the gain could be attributed to an increase in the number of economically disadvantaged students getting a head start on college.

“Students and parents in Missouri and across the nation are increasingly seeing the value of rigorous courses and AP exams,” Commissioner of Education Chris L. Nicastro said.  “This pays off for them big time because students will be better prepared for a successful college experience.  They also can save precious time and money in their pursuit of a two- or four-year degree.”

Missouri had a 58.4 percent success rate among all AP exams taken by the 2010 class cohort.  This outpaced the national average of 56.1 percent.

About 850,000 students in the nationwide cohort group took more than 2.5 million AP exams during high school, which averages about 2.9 exams per test-taking student.  In Missouri, 8,364 students took 20,273 exams, an average of about 2.4 per student.

The most popular AP exams among Missouri's Class of 2010 were English Literature and Composition, English Language and Composition, U.S. History, Psychology, and U.S. Government and Politics; these were followed by Calculus AB, Biology, World History, European History and Chemistry. 

Maryland had the highest proportion of graduates with at least one successful AP exam, topping all other states with 26.4 percent (about 1 in 4 students).  In contrast, Missouri ranked 46th with 7.5 percent (about 1 in 13 students).  The national average was 16.9 percent (about 1 in 6 students). 

“While many students in Missouri have valuable opportunities to earn dual-credit in high school, I believe AP exams deserve much more attention in our state than they received in the past,” Nicastro said.  “Our teachers and school administrators recognize that one of the best ways to close the achievement gap is to challenge all students with rigorous work and high expectations.  More students need to believe they can set their academic sights higher and achieve their greatest potential.”

Nationally, all but four states increased their overall cohort participation in AP exams from the previous year.  Although Missouri’s participation rate increased from 12.3 to 13.4 percent, it was much lower than the national average of 28.3 percent. 

State and local efforts to increase AP participation levels will help student achievement, and much can be done to remove barriers to access, Nicastro said.  Only one-third of Missouri school districts currently offer AP courses, and many families are reluctant to pay the $87 exam fee.

To help with these issues, Nicastro said that two statewide resources are available to students and schools.

MoVIP, the Missouri Virtual Instruction Program, was established in 2007 by state statute and the State Board of Education.  Its online AP offerings have grown to 19 different courses.  In addition to providing tuition-based education services to school-age students residing in the state, MoVIP can partner with school districts to deliver online AP courses in their classrooms.

AP exam-fee assistance also is available for low-income students through the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.  State officials said student utilization of the federal Advanced Placement Test Fee Program has more than doubled since 2008.  School coordinators can help eligible students apply for financial assistance, as well as for some fee reductions available through the College Board.