The number of high-school students taking college-level Advanced Placement courses continues to climb in Washington state and across the nation.
Nationally, the number of A.P. test takers broke the one million mark for the first time in 2013, according to a report released on Tuesday by the College Board. That’s up from about 954,000 in 2012, and 514,000 in 2003.
In Washington state, about 22,000 students — equal to a third of the class of 2013 — took at least one A.P exam last year, about 1,000 students more than the year before.
The state’s A.P. success rate rose, too, with 20.9 percent of the class of 2013 earning a score of 3 or better, which is good enough to earn credit at many colleges. In 2012, about 20 percent did.
But there were big differences in the performance from test to test, and among different ethnic groups.
- The Washington students who took A.P. Chinese were best prepared. Of the 161 students who took that test, nearly 60 percent received the top score of 5, and only about 4 percent failed to score at least a 3.
- In four subjects, in contrast, about 30 percent of students earned a score of 1 — the lowest possible. Those subjects were Calculus AB (first-semester college calculus), European History, chemistry and biology. The number of students who took those tests ranged from 1,600 for European History to nearly 6,000 for Calculus.
- While most ethnic groups in this state gained ground over the past year, African American students did not. About the same number of black students took at least one A.P. exam — 719 in 2013 compared with 720 in 2012. But the success rate dipped — from 274 students scoring a three or better in 2012 to 254 last year. That made Washington one of about 20 states where the performance of black students declined.
The growth of the A.P. program has been celebrated and criticized, with critics worried that the push to enroll more students in A.P. classes hasn’t come with enough support to ensure that students have a chance to succeed.
A.P. classes are one of a number of college-level options available in the nation’s high schools, but they remain the most common way for high-school students to earn college credit.