Advanced Placement Proves Gateway to College Success
More Students Succeeding on AP(R) Exams in All 50 States: New York, Maryland, Utah, Florida, California, and Massachusetts Lead the Way
Equity Gap Closed Among Hispanic/Latino Population
Washington, DC--(HISPANIC PR WIRE)--January 25, 2005--As the Advanced Placement Program(R)(AP(R)) approaches its fiftieth anniversary (1), the College Board, the not-for-profit membership association that administers the AP Program, has released the first-ever 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 succeeding in college-level AP courses. Research shows that strong correlations exist between AP success and college success—students who succeed on one or more AP Exams are much more likely than their peers to complete a bachelor’s degree in four years or less.(2)
“When students are challenged in high school, they gain the confidence to go to college and succeed once there,” said College Board President Gaston Caperton. “We are very pleased with the results of the Advanced Placement Report to the Nation. AP students, parents, educators, and policymakers should be congratulated. More high school students than ever before are succeeding on college-level AP Exams, exams that are more rigorous than ever before.”
Across the nation’s public schools, 13 percent of students in the class of 2004 demonstrated mastery of an AP Exam by earning an exam grade of 3 or higher—the grade predictive of college success (3). Only 10 percent of the class of 2000 accomplished this goal.
New York is the first state in the nation to see more than 20 percent of its graduating class achieve a grade of 3 or higher on an AP Exam. The states of Maryland, Utah, Florida, California, and Massachusetts are close to this level of achievement, each with between 18 and 20 percent of students earning a score of 3 or higher on an AP Exam.
Although 37 states and the District of Columbia have lower results than the nationwide average of 13 percent, every single state and the District of Columbia saw a greater proportion of its class of 2004 score a 3 or higher than occurred within its class of 2000. AP achievements for each state’s class of 2000 and class of 2004 are detailed in the report. (See AP Report to the Nation, Table 1, page 5.)
AP Highlights from Around the Country
-- Nationwide, 13.2 percent of the class of 2004 scored 3 or higher on one or more AP Exams, up from 10.2 percent for the class of 2000.
-- States showing a five-year increase of between 4 and 6 percent include Florida, Maryland, North Carolina, Colorado, Connecticut and Washington state, (see AP Report to the Nation, Table 1, page 5).
-- In New York State’s class of 2004, more than 21 percent of the students scored 3 or higher on one or more AP Exams.
-- Maryland, Utah, Florida, California, and Massachusetts, all had AP success rates between 18 and 20 percent for the class of 2004 (see AP Report to the Nation, Table 2, page 7).
AP and College Readiness
The U.S. Department of Education’s landmark 1999 study Answers in the Tool Box showed that a high school curriculum of “academic intensity and quality” such as is found in AP courses is a powerful predictor of bachelor’s degree completion. These findings were particularly pronounced among African American and Hispanic/Latino students who had taken AP or other rigorous courses (4). New research conducted by the University of California:Berkeley “emphatically supports” many earlier studies’ findings that an AP Exam grade of 3 or higher is “a remarkably strong predictor of performance in college.”
This study concludes: “The subject-specific, curriculum-intensive AP Exams are the epitome of ‘achievement tests,’ and their validity in predicting college performance should not be surprising.” (5)
“AP enables students to receive a taste of college while still in an environment that is more intimate and nurturing than the large lecture halls where introductory college courses are frequently taught,” said Trevor Packer, executive director of the AP Program.
“Effective AP teachers work closely with their students, giving them the responsibility to reason, analyze, and understand the material for themselves. As a result, AP students can develop new confidence in their academic abilities.”
While lauding the expansion of successful performance on AP Exams, the Advanced Placement Report to the Nation also notes that many more students enter college each fall than have first been prepared through successful completion of an AP course. Gaps currently exist in each state between the percentage of students who entered college in fall 2004—56.8 percent—and the percentage of students who had mastered an AP course—13.2 percent. (See AP Report to the Nation, Table 2, page 7.)
“Closing these gaps is one solution for improving college graduation rates,” said Caperton.
2004 AP Program Snapshot
Worldwide, 14,904 schools participated in the AP Program. 14,144 of these schools are located in the 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia; 760 of these schools are located outside of the United States or in U.S. territories.
Of AP schools in the United States, 11,196 are public schools (an increase of 417 schools since 2003) and 2,948 are nonpublic schools (an increase of 103 schools since 2003).
These schools offered an average of seven different AP courses.
-- Worldwide, 1,101,802 students took 1,887,770 AP Exams.
-- The mean AP Exam grade was 2.96.
-- Female participants: 56.2 percent
-- Male participants: 43.8 percent
Of the 34 AP Exams, the five taken by the greatest number of students were:
-- U.S. History (262,906)
-- English Lit. & Comp. (239,493)
-- English Lang. & Comp. (198,514)
-- Calculus AB (175,094)
-- U.S. Gov’t. & Politics (112,894)
Closing Equity Gaps in U.S. Public Schools
In the past, African American, Hispanic/Latino, and Native American students have been significantly underrepresented in the pool of AP examinees, but much progress has been made over the past five years. Most significantly, in U.S. public schools, the proportion of Hispanic/Latino students within the pool of AP Exam takers now matches the proportion of Hispanic/Latino students in U.S. public schools overall: Hispanics/Latinos made up 12.8 percent of the class of 2004, while an impressive 13.1 percent of AP Exam takers in the class of 2004 were Hispanic/Latino. (See AP Report to the Nation, Figure 1, page 9.)
“There is good news and progress is being made, but there is still work to be done to ensure that underrepresented minority students are encouraged to participate in AP classes,” said Caperton. “The College Board calls for schools to make every effort to ensure that their AP classrooms reflect the diversity of their student population,” added Caperton.
AP Potential(TM), a free Web-based tool available to school administrators, uses correlations between performance on PSAT/NMSQT(R) test questions and success on AP Exams to identify students likely to score a 3 or better on a given AP Exam. These data help educators ensure that no student who has the chance of succeeding in AP is overlooked. The state of Florida uses AP Potential to identify such students in its public schools, and has had great success in increasing the number of traditionally underserved students who are succeeding on AP Exams.
In U.S. schools, African American and Native American students remain significantly underrepresented in AP. Nationwide, African American students make up 13.2 percent of the student population, but only 6.0 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 1, page 9.)
“Educators and caregivers must work to ensure all children have the opportunity to achieve,” said Dr. Joe A. Hairston, superintendent of Baltimore County Public Schools. “AP is an important tool to help students prepare for and succeed in higher education.”
There have been major increases in African American, Hispanic/Latino, and Native American students scoring 3 or higher on AP Exams:
-- Between 1996 and 2004, there has been a 164 percent increase in the number of grades of 3 or higher earned by African American students on AP Exams (8,696 in 1996 versus 22,923 in 2004).
-- Between 1996 and 2004, there has been a 197 percent increase in grades of 3 or higher earned by Hispanic/Latino students on AP Exams (29,689 in 1996 versus 88,217 in 2004).
-- And among Native American students, there has been a 115 percent increase from 1996 to 2004 in grades of 3 or higher on AP Exams (1,416 in 1996 versus 3,048 in 2004).
(See AP Report to the Nation, Figure 3 on page 11 and Figures 4 and 5 on page 12.)
Part Two of the Advanced Placement Report to the Nation uses data from all schools participating in AP worldwide to identify schools currently leading internationally in AP participation and performance. Part Two also includes performance information for each of the AP subject areas.
The College Board's Advanced Placement Program enables students to pursue college-level studies while still in high school. Thirty-four courses in 19 subject areas are offered. Based on their performance on rigorous AP Exams, students can earn credit, advanced placement, or both for college.
A Word About Comparing States and Schools
Media and others occasionally rank states, districts, and schools on the basis of AP Exam results, despite concern that such rankings may be problematic. AP Exams are valid measures of students’ content mastery of college-level studies in academic disciplines, but should never be used as a sole measure for gauging educational excellence and equity.
(1) The 2005-06 academic year will be the fiftieth anniversary of the AP Program.
(2) Wayne Camara. “College Persistence, Graduation and Remediation.”. College Board Research Notes (RN-19). New York, NY: College Entrance Examination Board, 2003
(3) 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.
(4) Clifford Adelman, Answers in the Tool Box: Academic Intensity, Attendance Patterns and Bachelor’s Degree Attainment (1999), U.S. Department of Education.
(5) Saul Geiser and Veronica Santelices, “The Role of Advanced Placement and Honors Courses in College Admissions.” (Berkeley: Center for Studies in Higher Education, University of California), 2004