The number of state public high school seniors taking and passing Advanced Placement tests has grown, especially among low-income students, according to the California Education Department.
About 152,647 students from last year’s graduating class took an AP exam, an increase of 66,344 from 2003. California moved from eighth to sixth in the nation in 2013 among students who scored at least a passing score of three out of five on an AP exam in high school.
The state is one of 17 across the nation to turn out above-national-average scores, an Education Department news release said.
“It’s important to recognize that not only are more and more students feeling equipped to tackle these college-level courses, but that more and more of them are succeeding,” said Tom Torlakson, state superintendent of public instruction. “Along with their schools and families, they are working hard to be ready for college, and I’m glad to see the numbers continue to climb.”
Last year, 64,539 low-income students took AP exams in California, compared with 18,677 in 2003. The number of Latino students taking AP exams increased nearly 10% in the last decade, while the rate of African American students taking them rose to 3.7% from 3.2%.
Joe Radding, administrator of college preparation programs for the state, commended school districts for making strides in making AP courses available to students. But he noted work should continue especially among African American students. He said the College Board meets regularly in districts across the state, such as the Los Angeles Unified School District, to improve access among the African-American population.
"California's track record has been strong, but more can still be done to close access gaps to college, but we shouldn't stop," Radding said.
The College Board, which administers the AP exam, awarded its 2014 AP Equity and Excellence District of the Year Award to the El Monte Union High School District in Los Angeles County as the nation’s leader among medium-size districts, the news release said.
The board also recognized 28 other California school districts for expanding access to AP exams in addition to more students scoring a three or better on the college-level tests. They included Palos Verdes Peninsula Unified, San Lorenzo Valley and Fremont Unified school districts.
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