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Thursday, September 26, 2013

Arkansas outpaces country in Advanced Placement test growth

Posted By on Thu, Sep 26, 2013 at 10:10 AM

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The state Education Department announced today that the percentage growth in both numbers and scores on Advanced Placement tests in Arkansas exceeded the national average for the class of 2012.

The percentage scoring a 3 or better (a score considered high enough to be equivalent to college-level mastery of a subject) increased by 8.6 percent against a national increase of 6.1 percent. The number that took the exam increased 6.6 percent, compared with a national growth rate of 5.7 percent.

Arkansas benefits, to some degree, because it has so far to go. For example, in the percentage of students scoring a 3 or higher, about 14 percent in Arkansas did that well. But it's not as bad as it might seem. The rate is ahead of 21 state and the District of Columbia. It ranked 11th nationally in growth of that success rate over a decade.

Success is lacking on getting more minority students to take and succeed on the test. Though 21 percent of the graduating class was black, only 14.8 percent took AP tests and only 5 percent scored a 3 or higher on at least one test. Overall, 42.7 percent of 2012 graduates took AP tests in Arkansas. and 14.8 percent got a 3 score.

The idea is that more students taking more rigorous courses will produce better qualified high school graduates.

The full report is here.

The state's full news release follows.

The number of students taking Advanced Placement tests, as well as the state's overall scores, increased in 2013.

The number of AP exams scoring 3 or higher out of a possible 5 increased 8.6 percent, as compared to the nation's increase of 6.1 percent. A score of 3 or higher on the exam is generally accepted for college credit at colleges around the country.

Information released today by College Board, the nonprofit entity that provides SAT and AP assessments, also shows that the number of students who took AP exams increased 6.6 percent, as compared to 5.7 percent for the nation.

"Arkansas has taken great strides to improve not only the number of students taking AP assessments, but the overall scores as well," Department of Education Commissioner Dr. Tom Kimbrell said.

In addition to providing additional training for teachers and an increase in the number of pre-AP classes offered on the junior-high level, the increase can be attributed to Act 2152 of 2005, which made Arkansas the only state in the country that pays for AP exams.

Every high school in the state offers a minimum of four AP classes in the core areas of English, social studies, math and science to high school students. Students who take these college-level classes have the opportunity to qualify for college credit based on their scores on the AP exams, which are given in May each year. The most popular AP exams in Arkansas in 2013 were English language, English literature, U.S. history, world history and AB calculus.

Research has shown that taking an AP class increases a student’s GPA in college and the likelihood of graduating even if the student does not make a qualifying score on the exam. When students do make qualifying scores of 3 or higher, their predicted GPAs and graduation rates increase as well. Being exposed to the rigor of college classes early improves student achievement in college.

In addition to the increase in AP exam scores, College Board announced that the mean (or average) SAT scores in critical reading, mathematics and writing increased slightly from 2012. Although most colleges and universities accept both ACT and SAT assessments, a majority of students in Arkansas take the ACT. In 2013, 897 students took the SAT.

For more information about these scores, go to

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