Maryland ranks No. 1 in the nation for students passing Advanced Placement exams

By Liz Bowie
Wednesday, February 9, 2011; 11:49 PM

Maryland ranked No. 1 in the nation for the third year in a row in high school graduates who passed Advance Placement exams, the result of a decade-long push to encourage students to prepare for the rigorous college-level exams.

Montgomery County Public Schools set a record for AP performance, with half of its 2010 graduates earning a passing grade of 3 or higher on at least one AP exam, the school system said in a news release. That percentage is nearly double the statewide rate and triple the national rate. Statistics for several other school systems in the Washington region were not immediately available.

"Clearly, MCPS is a driving force in the state and nation in providing all students access to AP classes," Jerry D. Weast, superintendent of schools, said in the release.

Across the state, 26.4 percent of 2010 graduates received a 3 or better on at least one AP exam during their high school careers, higher than New York, with 24.6 percent, or Virginia, Connecticut and Massachusetts, all with a 23 percent pass rate. Mississippi had a pass rate of 4.4 percent, the lowest in the nation.

"I think Maryland has done better because we have really focused on preparing teachers and ensuring that we have AP offerings in our schools," state school Superintendent Nancy Grasmick said.

The College Board highlighted the state's effort to prepare more students, starting as early as middle school, to take courses that push them to think more critically.

Maryland also leads the nation in improvement for African American high school graduates who passed Advanced Placement exams, but the achievement gaps between black achievers and their peers remain vast. African Americans in the state still represent a small percentage of those who pass the tests.

One in 10 students who had passed an AP test were African American, in a state where blacks represent more than one-third of the graduates each year.

In Baltimore County, the differences are stark. Top performing schools have some of the highest success rates for 2010 grads of any system in the Baltimore region, beating out the best schools in Howard and Anne Arundel counties. But the county's lowest performing schools, with large minority populations, have success rates of less than 5 percent.

"African American students nationwide remain underrepresented. That is a nationwide problem . . . and no state has addressed that problem," said Trevor Packer, vice president of the College Board, the nonprofit group that develops and grades the test.

But the percentage of Maryland's African American high school graduates who were successful on the AP exams has grown. A decade ago, 6.5 percent were successful; today that figure is 9.9 percent.

- Baltimore Sun

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