A record number of Ventura County high school seniors passed Advanced Placement exams last school year to earn college credit, according to a report released Thursday by College Board and state education officials.
More than one of every four Ventura County seniors who took the rigorous tests passed, the report showed.
And Ventura County students posted a higher pass rate than their counterparts in all but four counties in the state. Only Orange, San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties had higher percentages of seniors passing the tests.
“We’re happy,” said Arlene Miro, administrative services director for the Ventura Unified School District, in which 22.8% of seniors who took the test passed. “We have more students taking the test every year.”
Compared to 1984, when officials first began compiling the scores, the number of passing students countywide has increased from 6.6% to 26.9%. That average places county students well above the statewide average of 20.1%.
Advanced Placement tests, administered by the New York-based College Board, are taken by top high school students nationwide. The tests, given in 29 subjects ranging from history to physics to art, are scored on a scale of one to five. Students earning a three or better receive college credit.
Among Ventura County districts, Oak Park Unified seniors showed the greatest improvement, with a pass rate increasing from 4.1% to 81.7%, the highest average in the county.
“We’ve also had a jump in the number of students taking the AP test,” said Jeff Chancer, principal of Oak Park High School. Thirty-seven Oak Park students from the class of 1990 took the tests and 58 from the class of 1991 took them, he said.
Chancer and other school officials urge students to take the tests as a money-saving measure. If students pass an Advanced Placement exam in a particular subject, they would not have to take--and pay for--that course in college.
In Thousand Oaks’ Conejo Valley Unified District, 550 students took 831 Advanced Placement exams last school year, said Sylvia Michael, associate director of research and assessment. If all the students who passed received full college credit, that would equal 3,140 college units earned and a tuition savings of more than $642,000, officials estimate. That figure is based on charges at a cross section of California universities.
Since 1984, most of the county districts have measured steady improvement.
However, in Moorpark, the pass rate dropped from 12.6% in 1984 to 10.8% last year. Moorpark officials were unavailable for comment Thursday.
And in the Fillmore and Ojai unified school districts, scores last school year dropped slightly compared to the previous year but have risen overall since 1984.
In Ojai, 40.9% of students who took the tests last school year passed, compared with 44% the previous year. Nordhoff High Principal Ron Barney attributed the drop to a smaller senior class and to a slight decline in the number of students who passed history exams.
Although Santa Paula’s pass rate of 4.9% for seniors is still the lowest in the county, officials said the improving scores indicate that an increased emphasis on college preparation, including standardized tests, is paying off.
“We’re really emphasizing the Scholastic Aptitude Test, the Advanced Placement test and other tests, and we’re gradually seeing improvement,” Principal Bob Fisher said. “We’re going where we want to go.”
Two years ago, just one Santa Paula student took an Advanced Placement test. Last year, 23 students at the 1,200-student school took the tests, Fisher said.
In the Oxnard Union High School District, 461 students took exams, said Bert Pearlman, director of curriculum and assessment.
“What the charts may not show is that AP successes are really attributable to the students and the teachers who are going the extra mile, staying after school and on their own time,” Pearlman said. “We strongly support their efforts.”
* STATEWIDE: Three times as many students passed as in ’84. A1
Passing Placement Tests
Ventura County students passing Advanced Placement tests, per 100 seniors
Class of Class of School District ’84 ’91 % Increase Conejo Valley Unified 14.5 49.0 238% Fillmore Unified 7.7* 10.5 36 Moorpark Unified 12.6* 10.8 -14 Oak Park Unified 4.1* 81.7 1,893 Ojai Unified 18.4 40.9 122 Oxnard Union High 1.7 15.7 824 Santa Paula Union High 0.5* 4.9 880 Simi Valley Unified 9.4 28.4 202 Ventura Unified 1.5 22.8 1,420 Ventura County average 6.6 26.9 308 State average 7.2 20.1 179
* 1984 data not available; earliest available data used
Source: California Department of Education