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More Students Than Ever Are Participating And Succeeding In Advanced Placement

Over the last 10 years, both the number of U.S. public high school graduates who’ve taken an Advanced Placement® (AP®) exam and the number who have scored a 3 or higher on at least one AP Exam have increased by about 70 percent, according to the AP Program Results: Class of 2017 report released in May, 2018.

With the class of 2017, more students than ever are participating and succeeding in AP. More than 1.17 million students in the class of 2017 took 3.98 million AP Exams in public high schools nationwide, up from 1.14 million students in 2016 and 691,437 in the class of 2007. When it comes to performance, 711,518 students scored 3 or higher on at least one AP Exam in 2017, compared to 423,067 in 2007.

“The fact that student participation and performance are moving in tandem year after year is cause for celebration. In greater numbers than ever before, AP is clearing a path for students to own their own future,” said David Coleman, president and CEO, the College Board. “With the historic launch of AP Computer Science Principles, we changed the invitation to computer science and thousands of students, who once had not participated, succeeded in AP-level work that’s prepared them for career success.”

AP Computer Science Principles (AP CSP), offered for the first time in the 2016–17 school year, has dramatically expanded access to advanced computer science education. This new AP course was designed as a precursor to the intensive Java-coding AP Computer Science A course available since 1983 but taken by only a fraction of the students who take other AP STEM courses. In 2007, 20,041 students took an AP Computer Science exam, and by 2016 that number had only grown to 57,937; but in 2017, after just one year, that number rose to 103,797 unique students.

With the launch of AP CSP, the number of females who took an AP computer science course more than doubled, as did the number of Hispanic/Latino, Black/African American, and rural students. Today, a more diverse group of students have exposure to computer science and have broadened their understanding of how it might play into their future career.

In addition, students’ performance on the exam exceeded expectations. Overall, 74.5 percent of students scored 3 or higher on the 2017 AP CSP Exam. At the same time, the number of females earning a 3 or higher on an AP computer science exam also doubled and the number of Hispanic/Latino and Black/African American students scoring a 3 or higher almost tripled.

“For too long, we as a nation have talked about engaging more students — and a more diverse set of students — in computer science education. Despite the best intentions, such growth has been elusive. The eye-opening expansion in participation among female, rural white, and minority students in AP Computer Science this year is a tribute to educators who have used this new AP course to deliver concrete college and career readiness opportunities to many more students,” said Trevor Packer, senior vice president of the AP Program.

Developed by the AP Program with the National Science Foundation and the College Board’s higher education partners, AP CSP is anchored in teamwork, collaboration, and creative use of technology to solve challenges students and teachers identify in their lives and communities. In the 2017–18 school year, its second, the course is offered in 1,300 new schools, bringing the total to almost 3,800 high schools worldwide.

State Data

The report shows that for the second year in a row Massachusetts leads the nation in the percentage of students from the class of 2017 taking and succeeding in AP. In Massachusetts, more than 32 percent of public school graduates from the class of 2017 participated in AP and scored 3 or higher on at least one AP Exam. This represents a 12.9 percentage-point increase from 2007, making it the state with the largest 10-year increase in AP performance.

The report also shows Nevada had both the largest 5-year and 3-year increases in the percentage of public high school graduates earning a 3 or higher on an AP Exam.

Rhode Island sustained marked growth over the past decade and is the only state with a top 5 increase in 1-, 3-, 5-, and 10-year growth in the percentage of public high school graduates earning a 3 or higher on an AP Exam.

The Top 10 States with the Highest Percentage of 2017 Public High School Graduates Scoring a 3 or Higher on an AP Exam During High School are:

  • Massachusetts: 32.1

  • Maryland: 31.2

  • Connecticut: 31.0

  • Florida: 30.8

  • California: 30.3

  • Virginia: 28.5

  • New Jersey: 28.0

  • New York: 27.8

  • Colorado: 27.4

  • Illinois: 26.3

More high schools than ever offer AP classes. In 2006–07, 16,464 schools participated in AP; today that number has grown to 22,169 schools.

Research consistently demonstrates that AP students are better prepared for college. They’re more likely to enroll in college, stay in college, do well in their classes, and graduate in four years.

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