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Georgia's seniors doing well on AP exams

Special to the Clayton News Daily

Georgia has the 12th highest percent of seniors scoring a 3 or higher on Advanced Placement (AP) Exams, according to The College Board's AP Report to the Nation released last week. This report measures the progress of the class of 2009.

"I am proud that more Georgia students than ever are challenging themselves with demanding course work and are successfully mastering the material," said State Superintendent of Schools Kathy Cox. "We recognize that one of the best ways to close the achievement gap is to challenge all students with rigorous work and high expectations."

Advanced Placement classes and exams are administered by the College Board, which also administers the SAT. AP classes offer rigorous college-level learning options to students in high school. Students who receive a 3, 4 or 5 on AP exams may receive college credit.

The AP Report to the Nation looks at data for 2009 high school seniors. Among Georgia's public high school seniors in 2009:

* 17.8 percent scored a 3 or higher on at least one AP exam during high school. That is higher than the national average of 15.9 percent.

* Georgia is tied for 2nd in the nation when comparing the five-year increase of public school seniors scoring a 3 or higher on at least one AP exam (5.4 percent growth compared to 3.2 percent for the nation.)

* Georgia ranks 3rd in the nation for its one-year increase of public school seniors scoring a 3 or higher on at least one AP exam (1.5 percent growth compared to 0.7 percent for the nation.)

When it comes to public school students enrolling in AP courses and taking the exams, Georgia is also a national leader. Only one other state in the country had a greater one-year increase in the number of AP exam-takers and number of exams given. The number of AP exams taken by Georgia's public school seniors increased 3.3 percent since 2008, compared to a 1.5 percent national average increase.

AP Growth Among All Students

Almost 64,000 Georgia students in all grades took at least one AP exam in 2008-2009, an increase of more than 11 percent from the previous year. Georgia's AP population continues to get more diverse as well, with more African-American and Hispanic students taking the rigorous classes.

"We know in Georgia that we must continue to close the achievement gap, and that's why it is so important that more of our minority students are taking these rigorous AP courses and doing well on the exams," Superintendent Cox said. "This AP report shows that Georgia is a leader in minority test-takers and success. We have work left to be done, but we are making tremendous progress."

During the 2008-2009 school year, more than 12,300 African-American public school students (all grades) took an AP exam. That's an increase of 17 percent from the previous year and represents more than 10 percent of all public school African-American test-takers nationwide. There were 3,507 Hispanic students (all grades) that took at least one AP exam in 2008-2009, an increase of more than 19 percent from the previous year.

According to the AP Report to the Nation, among Georgia's high school seniors:

* More than 23 percent of students who took an AP exam in 2008-2009 were African American, an increase of almost one percentage point from the previous year.

* 11.4 percent of Georgia's African-American high school seniors scored 3 or higher on at least one AP exam. That is almost eight points higher than the national average.

* About 5.6 percent of Georgia's AP test takers were Hispanic, higher than Georgia's overall Hispanic student population (5.5 percent).

State Efforts to Increase AP Participation

The State of Georgia has undertaken many successful efforts to increase participation in AP programs and success on AP exams. Among the initiatives:

* At the request of Gov. Sonny Perdue and Superintendent Cox, the Legislature has approved money to pay for students to take one AP exam per year. Economically disadvantaged students can have all of their AP exams paid for each year.

* The Georgia Department of Education (GaDOE) has organized the distribution of AP Teacher Quality Training Grants. Since 2006, the GaDOE has funded approximately $717,000 in grant awards to train 869 new AP teachers. These awards have allowed 573 new AP courses to be offered in public high schools throughout the state. It is anticipated that in 2010 an additional 282 AP teachers will be trained.

* The GaDOE has sponsored regional workshops for teachers of AP in the fall for the past three years. These workshops are led by master teachers of AP in Georgia high schools. To date, more than 1,600 AP teachers have participated in these course-specific workshops.

* The Georgia Virtual School (GAVS) continues to add AP classes, increasing access to students throughout the state, including those who might not otherwise be able to take an AP class. In 2008-2009, 578 students enrolled in 20 different AP courses. The Georgia Virtual School will begin offering AP Spanish in Fall 2010.

* The GaDOE developed the AP Handheld Project this year and gave $64,580 in grants to 56 schools for the purchase of handheld technology for students to use in their courses.