More students pass Advanced Placement tests

/ Source: The Associated Press

The percentage of public high school seniors passing at least one Advanced Placement test increased in nearly every state last year, but racial gaps remained, the College Board reported Tuesday.

More students took AP exams, more students passed them, and average scores were steady from 2004 to 2005.

“The quality of learning in AP classrooms has remained steady as schools have invited more students to take on the challenge of an AP course,” the College Board said in a statement.

In the nation’s public schools, 14.1 percent of the class of 2005 passed at least one AP test, up from 13.2 percent a year before. In 2000, 10.2 percent of high school seniors passed a test.

The number of students passing at least one test increased by nearly 120,000 from 2000 to 2005. But black students continued to take the exams at lower rates than white students, and their overall scores remained a level behind whites last year.

Race gap
Nationwide, black students make up 13.4 percent of the student population, but only 6.4 percent of the students taking AP exams. The percentage of white and Latino students taking the tests more closely mirrored their numbers in the classroom. A similar ratio of American Indian students also took the exams.

“Major initiatives are needed to ensure that all students are adequately prepared starting in middle school so that students will have a fair shot at AP success when they reach high school,” College Board President Gaston Caperton said in a statement.

The Advanced Placement Program, which the College Board oversees, offers college level courses in 20 subjects. The most popular subjects are U.S. History, English and calculus.

About 610,000 of the roughly 2.7 million members of the class of 2005 took a total of 1.5 million AP tests. About 380,000 of the students passed at least one test.

Passing an AP exam “is a strong predictor of a student’s ability to persist in college and earn a bachelor’s degree,” according to the College Board’s report.

Forty-four states and the District of Columbia increased the percentage of students passing at least one AP test last year. The percentage of students passing at least one test declined in five states — Florida, Nevada, Oklahoma, West Virginia and Wyoming. It was flat in Louisiana.

New York led the nation with 22.8 percent of its high school seniors passing at least one test. Louisiana was last with 2.5 percent.