Washington students pass more AP exams

More students in the state are taking, and passing, Advanced Placement exams in high school, according to the College Board's "AP Report to the Nation."

According to the Washington State Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI), 19,162 Washington students (or 29.8 percent) in the class of 2011 took at least one AP exam. That was 866 more than 2010, and 5,848 more than 2006.

Outside of participation, students' overall performance improved. According to the College Board, 18.4 percent of Washington students scored a three or higher on an AP exam, a score which typically results in receiving college credit. In 2010, 17.1 percent of Washington students earned a three or higher, while in 2001, the number was just at 9.1 percent.

The 9.3 percent increase of students earning threes or higher put Washington eighth in the nation for improving those scores, and put the state above the national average of 7.3 percent.

"This shows that Advanced Placement is working," said Randy Dorn, state superintendent. "More students are taking the tests, and more are passing them. And that's helping them be prepared for college and careers."

OSPI notes that in Washington, there has been an increase in participation among students of color and other categorical sub-groups. Two groups that saw a downward trend in participation rates, OSPI notes, were American Indian and Alaskan native students.

Barb Dittrich, supervisor for the AP program at OSPI, feels increased accessibility and trust in students has led to the improved participation rates and scores.

"Open the door to take the exams, and students will step through and accept the challenge," Dittrich said. "They can handle the rigor. They can attain the achievement because our teachers prepare them."

AP exams are offered in 34 subjects, and are given in the later part of the school year. They are graded on a scale from one to five. In Washington, the most popular AP courses are English language, U.S. history, English literature, calculus AB, U.S. government and politics, biology, world history, statistics, chemistry and European history.

Washington ranked 17th with the number of 12th-graders receiving threes or higher, but did outrank the national average.

For more information on the AP Report, visit

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