AP EXAM REPORT SHOWS PARTICIPATION UP; NORTH CAROLINA RECEIVES GRANT TO IMPROVE ACCESS
Educators know that students benefit from taking more rigorous courses, and recent news from the College Board shows that more North Carolina public school students are taking the most rigorous high school courses available.
At the same time, the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction recently was notified that the state is receiving a $306,144 AP Incentive Program grant to help widen access to AP courses and exams for minority students, rural students and others who are under-represented in these courses.
The number of public school students taking Advanced Placement examinations in North Carolina increased by 9 percent to 20,980 students from 2000 to 2001. The number of AP exams taken by students increased by 11.6 percent over the past year for all North Carolina public school students. Students also may take Advanced Placement courses without choosing to take the formal exams.
For comparison purposes, there are approximately 136,000 students in 11th and 12th grade - the grades when students are most likely to take AP courses and exams.
White students constitute 80 percent of the students who took AP exams in 2001. Although minority groups' participation rates are growing, the number of minorities who take these challenging courses and exams is small. The number of black students taking the tests grew by 19 percent from last year to 1,997 and Hispanic test takers increased by 16.8 percent to 347 students. American Indian numbers are small with only 113 American Indian students taking AP exams, but that number is 20 percent higher than in 2000.
North Carolina compares well to the nation overall when the number of examinations for every 1,000 test takers is considered. In North Carolina, there were approximately 1,731 examinations for every 1,000 test takers. In comparison to the national proportion of approximately 1,672 examinations for every 1,000 test takers, public school students in North Carolina took an average of 59 more examinations.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Mike Ward called these results encouraging. "Not only do we hope that North Carolina students will perform well on the AP exams, we also want to see access to these rigorous courses and tests provided to all qualified students. Our goal is to encourage students to take challenging coursework, and North Carolina's AP report shows that we are making progress.
"The federal grant we are receiving will help us do more to help qualified students gain access to these courses," he said.
In terms of performance, 28 percent of students earned AP grades of 4 or 5. Another 26 percent earned a grade of 3. Students earning grades of 1 or 2 made up 46 percent of test takers. The AP exams are generally a combination of multiple choice and open-ended questions and are graded on a five-point scale, with a score of 5.0 being the top score.
The Advanced Placement Program was established by The College Board in 1955 and allows students to take specially designed courses in high school to qualify for college credit if the student earns an adequate score on The College Board's AP exams. Individual colleges and universities determine scores that will qualify for credit.
Access to AP exams is important in encouraging students to reach high standards. In North Carolina 317 public schools had at least one student taking an AP exam, and 286 schools had at least 10 students taking an AP exam.
The AP Incentive Program grant will provide funds for a host of activities to reach main goals related to access in North Carolina. The funds will provide support for school systems that are low wealth, rural and or serving high minority populations to help them recognize and cultivate academic potential in at-risk and minority middle school students. The grant funds also will provide additional opportunities for students from these school systems to participate in AP courses using the Internet. This will build on a similar pilot program that served 600 students in 2000-01. A third approach will be to increase the number of secondary teachers in targeted districts who are prepared to teach AP courses by providing them with access to professional development and mentors who already teach AP courses.
There are 32 possible AP exams and courses, but the most popular ones in North Carolina are United States History, English Literature and Composition, English Language and Composition, Calculus AB and Biology.
Of all AP test takers, slightly more than half (51 percent) were seniors and 43 percent were juniors. Female students make up 57 percent of the test takers.
For more detailed information about AP exam performance in North Carolina, please contact Wandra Polk, assistant director of Instructional Services, 919.807.3816.
About the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction:
The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction provides leadership to 115 local public school districts and 126 charter schools serving over 1.5 million students in kindergarten through high school graduation. The agency is responsible for all aspects of the state's public school system and works under the direction of the North Carolina State Board of Education.
For more information:
NCDPI Communication and Information Division, 919.807.3450.