In an era when more than 35 percent of college freshmen and sophomores require remediation and less than 40 percent of college freshmen will earn a degree in four years, educators are increasingly using the high standards embedded within Advanced Placement® courses to help more high school students develop the critical thinking skills and content knowledge essential for college success. Research indicates that students who succeed on an AP Exam during high school typically experience greater academic success in college, experience lower college costs and are more likely to earn a college degree than their peers.
New data released today by the College Board as part of The 8th Annual AP Report to the Nation show a continuation of a multiyear trend: In all but four states, more public school graduates participated in the Advanced Placement Program®. As a result of this expansion, a higher percentage of high school graduates succeeded on AP Exams, affirming the vision of educators that many more students deserved access to this type of course work.
Trends in AP® Participation and Performance
Across the nation's public high schools, 18.1 percent of graduates in the class of 2011 participated in AP and earned at least one AP Exam score of 3 or higher (see Figure 2). The percentage of graduates participating and succeeding in AP is a testament to the conviction of many educators that more students deserve access to rigorous course work in high school and will succeed if given the opportunity.
At the same time, 12.1 percent of graduates in the class of 2011 participated in AP but did not have a successful experience, indicating that these students were unprepared for the rigor of AP. This confirms that just as not all high school students are ready for college, not all high school students are ready for AP, and greater emphasis should be placed on preparing students in the pre-AP years (typically grades 6–10) for the rigors of AP and college.
Students With Potential for Success Lack Access to AP
This year's Report features new analyses based on PSAT/NMSQT® performance, suggesting that nearly half a million students did not take the AP Exam(s) during high school for which they had exhibited the academic potential to succeed. Among 771,000 PSAT/NMSQT takers in the class of 2011 with high academic readiness for AP (i.e., a 70 percent or greater probability of scoring a 3 or higher), nearly 478,000 of these students did not take an AP Exam for which they had demonstrated potential. In particular, American Indian/Alaska Native, African American and Latino students with high levels of readiness for AP were much less likely than their white and Asian peers to take a recommended AP Exam (see Figure 6).
Traditionally Underserved Students Underrepresented in AP
In the class of 2011, the numbers of traditionally underserved minority students participating and succeeding in AP continued to increase. However, these students remain underrepresented not only in AP classrooms but also among Americans earning a college degree. Equitable preparation for AP and increased AP course-taking opportunities are vital efforts that must be made. Research consistently shows that minority and low-income students who earn a 3 or higher on an AP Exam are more likely than their peers to earn higher grades in college and to earn a college degree within five years.
AP and STEM Education
An additional focus of the Report is on the participation of students in AP courses in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) disciplines. The numbers of students who are taking AP STEM courses and succeeding in them continued to increase. The experimentation and problem solving introduced through AP STEM course work and exams support national efforts to increase student achievement in these subjects. Research shows that students who took AP math or science exams were much more likely than non-AP students to earn degrees in physical science, engineering, or life science disciplines — fields leading to some of the careers essential for America's future prosperity.
Achieving Equity and Excellence
In 2011, the College Board initiated the AP District of the Year awards to honor districts that simultaneously expanded access to AP while maintaining or increasing the percentage of students earning a 3 or higher on AP Exams. Last year's winners — Chicago Public Schools, Illinois (large district); Colton Joint Unified School District, California (medium district); and West New York School District, New Jersey (small district) — are prominently featured in The 8th Annual AP Report to the Nation and microsite. The 2011-12 recipients of the AP District of the Year awards are Polk County Public Schools, Florida (large district); Val Verde Unified School District, California (medium district); and Copiague Public Schools, New York (small district). More information about these districts can be found on pages 29–31 of this year's Report.
To assist individual schools, districts, states, and the higher education community in achieving the nation's education goals, The 8th Annual AP Report to the Nation outlines strategies for helping each group increase rigor, promote equity, and support STEM (see pages 26–27).
The 8th Annual AP Report to the Nation Key Data Points:
Maryland once again led the nation with the highest percentage of its graduates (27.9 percent) participating in AP and scoring a 3 or higher on an AP Exam. The full list of the top 10 states is (see Figure 2):
Maryland (27.9 percent )
New York (26.5 percent)
Virginia (25.6 percent)
Massachusetts (25.5 percent)
Connecticut (25.3 percent)
Florida (23.9 percent)
California (23.4 percent)
Colorado (22.3 percent)
Vermont (21.4 percent)
Utah (20.7 percent)
While the national percentage of high school graduates who participated and succeeded in AP is 18.1 percent, 19 states exceeded that national average (see Figure 2).
Since 2001, the 10 states that have achieved the largest positive change in the percentage of high school graduates participating and succeeding is AP are (see Figure 3):
Maryland (13.1 point increase)
Florida remains the only state in the nation with a relatively large population of Hispanic/Latino graduates — nearly one in four graduates is Hispanic/Latino — that has achieved 100 percent AP equity and excellence for that population (see Figure 7)
27.6 percent of the AP Exam takers in the class of 2011 scored a 3 or higher on a STEM exam.