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Far higher share of students are passing at least one AP test during high school

Advanced Placement World History teacher Mike Shannon, right, at Poolesville High School, on April 4, 2014 in Poolesville, Md. Maryland led the nation in terms of the percentage of its students in the Class of 2015 who passed at least one Advanced Placement test during high school. (Bill O’Leary/The Washington Post)

This post has been updated to include the state-by-state rankings, below.

More than 22 percent of the nation’s public school students from the Class of 2015 passed at least one Advanced Placement test during high school, according to data released Wednesday, a big jump from the roughly 13 percent who accomplished the feat a decade earlier.

Maryland led the nation on that measure for what state officials said was the 10th straight year: 31.7 percent of its graduates in 2015 earned a mark of 3 or better on one or more AP exams. The tests are scored on a 5-point scale, and 3 is generally considered a passing grade. Strong AP scores often qualify students for college credit or enable them to skip entry-level college classes.

[See rankings by state, one-year change, and 10-year change.]

Massachusetts ranked just behind Maryland with 31.5 percent of graduates logging at least one passing score, followed by Florida (30.7), Connecticut (30.4), California (30.2) and Virginia (29.8). D.C. saw a 4 point increase from 2014 to 2015 in the percentage of public high school graduates earning a 3 or higher on an AP exam, leading the nation, according to the College Board.

See The Washington Post’s rankings of America’s Most Challenging High Schools

The national average for passing at least one AP exam was 22.4 percent. In 2005, the national average was 13.3 percent.

The figures are from a new College Board report on AP results for public high schools.

Maryland officials celebrated the state’s perennially strong showing in the college-level program.

“Congratulations to Maryland students and educators for continuing to lead the nation in Advanced Placement assessment achievement,” Gov. Larry Hogan (R) said. “AP offers our students a rich and rigorous program of study, and the success of our students will help fuel further accomplishments in college and the workplace.”

AP exams — in dozens of subjects from computer science to physics to English — seek to gauge whether students have mastered introductory college-level material. The tests have boomed in the Washington area and elsewhere in recent years. At some high-powered high schools, students might take a half-dozen AP tests.

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In the District of Columbia, the share of graduates in 2015 who passed at least one test was 19.0 percent. That was up sharply from the share in the class of 2014 (15.0 percent) and the class of 2005 (7.5 percent).

School performance in the nation’s capital city is hard to compare to performance in states. But D.C.’s Class of 2015 ranked ahead of their peers in about half of states on this AP measure.

Nationally, participation in AP has grown significantly. In the Class of 2015, 37.3 percent of students took at least one exam during high school; the share for the class of 2005 was 21.2 percent.

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But there are gaps in access to the program. More than half of public school students come from families with incomes low enough to qualify for free or reduced-price lunches, the College Board said. But these accounted for just 30 percent of the AP test-takers.

2015 AP Cohort – State Rankings

2015 AP Cohort – One-year Change Rankings

2015 AP Cohort – Ten-year Change Rankings

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