States Propel Students to Success in Advanced Placement

New AP Computer Science Principles Course Key to Expanding Benefits of AP to a Wider Range of Students 

NEW YORK — Research shows states and districts are expanding Advanced Placement access and success for public high school students, including efforts to secure funding for low-income students via new funding sources.

The AP Program Results: Class of 2016 released today shows an increase in both the participation and passing rates for the high school graduating class of 2016. The data show the number of public high school students taking at least one AP Exam has almost doubled in 10 years from 645,000 for the class of 2006 to 1.1 million students in the class of 2016. Since 2006, the percentage of U.S. students taking AP classes and then earning a score of 3 or higher on at least one AP Exam has grown by 7.6 points from 14.3% to 21.9% of public high school graduates.

“There is a widespread belief in education that it is impossible to expand access while maintaining high performance. The AP Program tells a different story,” said David Coleman, president and CEO of the College Board. “Across the country AP participation rates are rising, as are passing rates for AP Exams. State and district leaders who have acted decisively to increase AP access are seeing those efforts pay off for students.”

State legislators are also making it easier for students to earn college credit by implementing statewide AP credit policies. So far, 22 states, encompassing more than 60% of the U.S. population, currently apply statewide AP credit policies, so students and families have a guarantee that the state’s public colleges and universities will award college credit for qualifying AP Exam scores.

An independent researcher from the American Enterprise Institute, Nat Malkus, has called the rise in AP participation and performance “the rarest kind of success in public education.” His data show that in 2012, about 90% of all students attended a school that offered at least one AP course, and that rate was similar for black, Hispanic, Asian, and white students.

Students who have the opportunity to take part in challenging AP courses develop skills they’ll need for college and potentially save money and time by earning college credit. Research shows students who succeed on AP Exams are more likely to earn higher GPAs in college, take more classes in their discipline, and graduate college on time.

For the first time, Massachusetts led the nation in AP results, achieving the highest percentage of public high school graduates scoring a 3 or higher on an AP Exam in 2016.

After leading the nation every year since 2009, Maryland this year had the second highest percentage of public high school graduates that scored a 3 or higher on an AP Exam.

And Nevada had both the largest three-year increase and a one-year increase in the percentage of public high school graduates scoring 3 or higher on an AP Exam.

Top 10 States with the Highest Percentage of 2016 Public High School Graduates Succeeding on AP Exams:

Massachusetts                        31.0

Maryland                                 30.4

Connecticut                             30.1

Florida                                     29.5

California                                 28.5

Virginia                                    28.3

New York                                27.3

Colorado                                 26.9

New Jersey                             26.5

Illinois                                      25.1

Reaching All Students with AP Computer Science Principles

The College Board launched a new course in the fall of 2016, AP Computer Science Principles (AP CSP), with the goal of creating leaders in computer science and giving those who are traditionally underrepresented in the computer science field tools and opportunities to pursue careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math). As of the 2016–2017 school year, AP CSP is offered in more than 2,500 schools, making this the largest AP course launch ever.

Many states and districts are taking the lead in making computer science a priority for their high school students. At the end of last year, Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval announced that every school district in his state will offer AP Computer Science Principles beginning in the 2017–2018 school year.

Data show that many students who are likely to do well on an AP Exam in computer science or other STEM subject don’t go on to take the exam in high school. For example, out of all students in the class of 2016 whose scores on the PSAT/NMSQT showed they would likely do well on the AP Computer Science A Exam, less than 9% took the exam. Among the rural students and female students in that group, less than 5% took the exam. AP CSP was built to appeal to students who have the potential to succeed in a college-level computer science class but who might not believe that computer science—or STEM courses in general—are for them.

For rural students, especially, AP CSP offers a way to get familiar with the foundational concepts of computer science. AP CSP classes can be led by teachers from a variety of backgrounds, which allows more rural schools to offer the course.

“In all 50 states, the number of job openings that require computing skills far exceeds the number of qualified graduates,” said Trevor Packer, the College Board senior vice president responsible for the AP Program “We believe all students deserve to attend a high school that provides coursework like AP Computer Science Principles, a class designed to prepare students for the incredible career opportunities of our century.”

What’s the Future of AP Exams Funding?

Since 1998, the federal government has joined the College Board in reducing the cost of AP Exams for low-income students. In 1999, over 45,000 low-income students used a combination of federal funding and College Board fee reductions to eliminate or greatly reduce the AP Exam fee; in 2016, more than 450,000 did. The College Board offers eligible low-income students a $31 fee reduction per exam.

Due to a change in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), states and districts can’t access funds through the AP Test Fee Program because funding is no longer earmarked exclusively for AP Exam fees. States and districts need to proactively dedicate funding under ESSA Title IV and Title I, or under their own education budgets, to cover the exam fees and provide AP courses not currently offered.

Several states have already responded to the federal funding changes. In November 2016, the Texas Education Agency announced that in addition to the $30 state subsidy it provides for funding each AP Exam taken by low-income students, it will use its ESSA Title IV-A federal funds to maintain fee assistance for over 200,000 students. The Texas Education Agency is currently working with districts and state charter schools to create a cost-sharing strategy for future funding of AP Exams taken by low-income students.

Declaring that “all students should have equal access to the benefit of Advanced Placement,” Kentucky Commissioner of Education Stephen L. Pruitt announced in December 2016 that his department would use state funds to cover the loss of dedicated federal funding for low-income students’ AP Exams. The Kentucky Department of Education stated it was making this commitment so that “schools will continue to provide Kentucky’s [low-income] students with the opportunity to take rigorous AP courses that prepare them to excel in their future college and career choices.”

“There are more than 500,000 low-income students sitting in AP classes now who are affected by the federal funding changes,” said Trevor Packer, senior vice president of AP and Instruction. “These students have embraced the challenge of advanced coursework, doing the extra work AP classes require, so we urge states and districts to partner with the College Board to subsidize the fees for these students, ensuring access to the college credit these low-income students have been working so hard to secure for themselves.”

More than ever, low-income students are participating and experiencing success in AP, making the funding of AP Exams under ESSA grant programs an essential part of creating equal access for all students going forward.

For more information about the 2016 AP Program Results: Class of 2016, please click here.