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More Washington students take, pass AP exams

A national report says more than 15 percent of Washington seniors are earning college credit by passing Advanced Placement exams. Five years ago, 10 percent of seniors in the state were earning college-ready scores.

The change puts the state in the top five in the nation for improvement, an annual report released by the College Board shows.

The annual “AP Report to the Nation” shows more students are taking AP exams than ever. In Washington, 16,294 students took at least one AP exam in 2008, up from 9,722 in 2003, according to the report.

“This shows that as we continue to open access to AP classes, students will step up to meet rigorous standards,” said Washington State Superintendent Randy Dorn.

The number of Washington students scoring high enough to earn college credit on the exams has been steadily increasing the past five years, up 5 percentage points from 2003.

Students must score a 3 or higher to earn college credit. Washington is tied with Oregon for fifth in the nation. Only Vermont, Maine, Maryland and Arkansas did better.

Overall, Washington ranks 17th in the nation for the greatest percentage of 12th graders scoring 3 or greater on AP exams. Maryland is first with 23.4 percent.

In Spokane Public Schools, 1,093 students took at least one AP exam last year, up from 504 in 2003, school officials said.

“We have been much more intentional about encouraging students to challenge themselves,” said Shawn Jordan, principal at Spokane’s Lewis and Clark High School.

At North Central High School, district staff has worked hard to increase AP course offerings. The school now has 40 sections of AP.

“We’ve more than doubled” course offerings since 2003, Principal Steven Gering said. “We’ve seen huge increases in the number of kids in the courses and passing.”

North Central was recognized last year by the College Board as one of the most improved schools in the nation with its boosts to AP.

Jordan at Lewis and Clark pointed to research that shows that students who take AP courses in high school are more likely to attend and succeed in college.

“If they start a four-year degree, research shows they complete that four-year degree,” Jordan said.

In addition to AP classes in core subjects like language arts, Lewis and Clark offers a new AP art history class and has a fairly unique environmental science class. Ferris High School also offers an AP environmental science class.

The exams are administered in 27 subjects each May.

“Our interest is to provide as many advanced placement courses as we can to meet different interests,” Jordan said.

His school is on top of what Washington’s Dorn hopes most schools will continue to do: challenge students by increasing AP offerings, especially those considered to be “career and technical education.” Dorn directed staff at the state superintendent’s office to work with districts, especially those in rural areas, to create more AP classes in vocational fields such as computer science, microeconomics and studio art.

However, most schools already offer CTE courses, which are required for graduation.

And many of the classes allow students to earn community college credit, without the AP label, said Shirley Andrews, assistant principal at Central Valley High School. Central Valley offers students courses in Web design, child development, and business and marketing at the college level.

“Those courses may not have that AP designation, but if the kids put in the additional time that it takes, there is a lot of rigor in those classes,” Andrews said.

CV also offers Pre-AP classes to incoming freshman to help them prepare for more rigorous AP coursework, should they want to pursue those as sophomores and beyond.

“We just trying to make sure we are giving every kid in the building the skills they need to challenge themselves,” Andrews said. “We’d love for every kid to come and take an AP class, but we also want them to survive so we try to find the right fit for every student.”



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