Testing Success

Our View: More State Students Taking Ap Exams Reflects Progress Schools Are Making

August 27, 2009

It's heartening that more Maryland high school students than ever took one or more of the advanced placement tests this year, and that the number of kids passing rose by 9 percent.

The exams enable students who score well to get credit for already having mastered certain subjects when they get to college. That means they can immediately begin taking higher-level courses or get a head start on other requirements for graduation.

And at a time when college tuition costs are rising and school financial aid programs are struggling to keep up, students who start out as college freshmen with a slew of AP courses under their belts find that they can complete the requirements for graduation in less than four years and end up saving considerably.

Moreover, the AP tests are gaining in prominence at a time when SAT scores that many schools traditionally relied on to measure college readiness are losing some of their previous significance. That's reflected in the growing number and diversity of students who are participating in advanced placement courses. The number of African-American students in AP classes, for example, jumped 10 percent last year even as the percentage of minorities taking the SATs also rose across the state.

Even in Baltimore, where AP enrollments historically have lagged, the number of public school students taking AP classes rose 21.3 percent, to 1,583 students in 2009 - nearly double that of four years ago.

Most of the increase was due to more African-Americans and males taking the tests. Meanwhile, the number of AP courses offered by city schools jumped to 83, from just 47 four years ago.

In the big picture, the fact that Maryland now has the nation's highest percentage of students taking and passing AP exams suggests that decade-long efforts to strengthen instructional programs and boost student achievement are paying off - and that's very good news indeed.

The state's future prosperity depends on a well-educated, highly motivated work force that can successfully compete in a global marketplace. The more top-quality, college-ready high school graduates the state can produce through academically rigorous programs like AP courses, the better its long-term economic outlook will be.

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