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Statewide AP participation, achievement continue upward trajectory

(Sept. 28, 2012) Maryland students recorded another major jump in both Advanced Placement (AP) assessment participation and success, according to newly released data.

Nearly 63,000 Maryland students took at least one AP test last year, an increase of 5.4 percent over 2010, and the number of exams taken jumped 5.4 percent to 116,614. In spite of the increase, the number of student test scores reaching the high-achieving scores of 3-5 increased almost 10 percent.

Hitting a score of 3-5 qualifies students to receive credit at many colleges and universities. The data was released Sept. 24, by the College Board, which administers AP and other national programs.

“In Maryland, we’ve set a goal to improve student achievement and college and career readiness by 25 percent by the end of 2015,” said Gov. Martin O’Malley. “We place education at the top of our agenda because we know what stronger schools and better classrooms mean to Maryland’s future. This data serves as a testament to the dedication and hard work of our talented educators and students, and provides more proof that we are targeting our investments correctly.”

State Superintendent of Schools Lillian M. Lowery said the results are a positive sign that students are becoming better prepared for life beyond high school. “Advanced Placement offers rigorous courses of study, serving as a cornerstone for future success in college or a career field,” Lowery said. “Maryland students are eager to test their mettle in everything from calculus to English literature.”

Maryland student success on the AP exams has ranked first in the nation for the past four years. The College Board will release its 2012 rankings early in 2013.

Scores on the SAT exam registered a decline — both in Maryland and across the nation. Maryland’s composite SAT score fell five points to 1487 on the 2400- point scale. Maryland students scored a 497 in critical reading (down two points, 502 in mathematics (even), and 488 in writing (down 3 points).

Although participation in the SAT was flat from 2011 to 2012, nearly 50,000 students (47,467) took the test in Maryland last year. The state has been working closely with the College Board to increase participation of underrepresented minority group students over the past five years, and that effort has paid off. There has been an 8.5 percent increase in African American participation since 2008, and an 18.7 percent jump in Hispanic student participation.

“Our state has been very successful in increasing participation and diversity in the pool of students taking the SAT over the past decade, but gaps in success have been a problem both here and across the nation,” Lowery said. “Maryland’s Race to the Top program, and its associated reform efforts, specifically target these gaps. Once fully implemented, we expect this work to bear fruit. This work is critical to our state’s economic future.”

Maryland SAT scores continue to compare favorably to the results recorded by students in similar states. For example, Maryland students outscored students in the neighboring SAT-dominated states of Delaware, Pennsylvania, and Washington, D.C., and their scores ranked seventh among the 20 states with 62 percent or more of their graduates taking the SAT. Maryland has a 74 percent participation rate among high school seniors on the SAT.

Among the other information in the College Board’s report: n Scores on the PSAT/NMSQT test were down slightly for juniors taking the exam, although there was a 2.6 percent increase in participation. The mean critical reading score for juniors was down .1 points to 46.8; the mean math score was down 1.0 points to 46.9, and the writing skills mean fell back .3 points to 44.9. n There was another increase of students taking the PSAT as sophomores, and score results were mixed. The critical reading mean was up .7 points and the writing skills mean was up .3 points, while the mean math score was down 1.1 points. n AP participation went up across racial subgroups. African American students tallied a 2.2 percent increase in participation, and a 1.5 percent jump in the number of tests taken. Hispanic student participation jumped 6.5 percent. Asian participation, which has always been strong, went up another 6.8 percent. nSuccess on the AP also was registered across many racial subgroups, according to the College Board data. The number of African-Americanstudentsscoringa3or better on an AP exam went up 12.2 percent in just one year; the number of Hispanic students scoring at this high range jumped 14.1 percent. The number of Asian students reaching a score of 3-5 was up 9.2 percent, while the number of White students hitting that mark rose 6.7 percent.

Maryland officials are particularly gratified by the increase in participation across the board. The State’s long-running partnership with the College Board has helped increase the number of students in urban and rural communities involved in both the AP and SAT programs.

MSDE is in the second year of a threeyear, $1.7 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education to expand its successful AP Program.

The competitive grant, “Operation ACCESS: Building the STEM Pipeline for College and Career,” will address the need to increase the successful participation of low-income students in Advanced Placement (AP) courses and exams using six strategies: acceleration, college and career readiness, community connections, enrichment, STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) courses, and student and family support.

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