Advanced Placement on the Rise; State Policy can Increase Participation Further.

The 2012 College Board report shows student participation in advanced placement courses increased dramatically in the decade between 2001 and 2011. However, the report also states most minority student populations are significantly less likely than white students to take an AP exam.

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  Download the Excel Version of the Table: "Advanced Placement Participation and Rate of Passing Scores (2001 & 2011) By State"

Advanced Placement, or AP, participation has increased dramatically during the past decade.

  • The percentage of U.S. high school graduates taking at least one AP course increased from 16.8 percent in 2001 to 30.2 percent in 2011.
  • AP participation varies greatly by state. In five states—Arkansas, Florida, Maryland, New York and Virginia—40 percent or more of high school students enrolled in at least one AP course in 2011. At the opposite extreme, less than 15 percent of students took an AP course in four states—Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri and North Dakota.1
Most minority student populations are significantly less likely than white students to take an AP exam. Although individual policies vary by institution, students can often receive college credit for a score of three or higher on a fivepoint grading scale.
  • White students accounted for 57.1 percent of AP exam-takers in 2011. They comprised approximately 60 percent of high school-age students.1
  • Although they account for nearly 15 percent of all students, African-American students made up only 9 percent of all AP test-takers in 2011. Hispanic/Latino students comprise the second largest group of AP testtakers at 17 percent.1
  • Asian-Americans make up only 5.7 percent of students in the U.S. but account for more than 10 percent of all students taking AP exams.1
  • Four out of five African-American high school graduates either did not take an AP course that was offered or attended a school that did not offer the subject.1
Participation and success in STEM—science, technology, engineering and mathematics—AP courses have increased during the past decade.
  • The number of high school graduates taking at least one AP science exam more than doubled between 2001 and 2011. In 2011, more than 313,000 students took an AP science exam. Nearly half of them received a score of three or higher—the minimum score that is considered to be a passing mark on an AP exam.1
  • More high school graduates scored at least a three on the 2011 STEM exams than the total number of students taking those tests in 2001.1
  • A majority of students earned a perfect score of 5 on three AP different STEM exams—computer science, calculus and physics–electricity and magnetism.1
The College Board, which administers the AP testing program, has recommended policies and practices for state decision-makers in its "AP Report to the Nation." Those recommendations include:
  • Setting clear, measurable statewide goals for AP participation and success;
  • Establishing AP participation and performance indicators on state report cards;
  • Requiring high schools and districts to offer a minimum number of AP courses, either through traditional or online delivery methods;
  • Providing targeted assistance and resources to schools serving traditionally underserved populations; and 
  • Providing funding incentives to subsidize fees for AP STEM exams.1
1 The College Board. “Eighth Annual AP Report to the Nation.” (2012) 


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