by Max Brantley
The state Education Department says Arkansas's push for high school students to take Advanced Placement courses is continuing to produce a rise in the number of students taking the more rigorous courses.
The better news is that there was a bigger percentage increase in passing scores on the tests as compared with the increase nationally, but it's also true Arkansas has farther to go, with a lower overall pass rate.
Here's a one-glance chart on the numbers. (Link corrected.) The news release follows.
Advanced Placement (AP) scores and the number of public school students taking the AP tests have once again gone up in Arkansas, according to 2010-2011 data released by the College Board.
In all, 21,280 Arkansas high school students took an AP test last school year. That’s an increase of 6.5 percent over the previous year. Those students took 36,421 AP exams, which is an 8.7 percent increase.
Most notably, Arkansas experienced a significant increase in the number of tests receiving a grade of 3, 4, or 5, which are the marks generally allowed for college credit. There were 10,949 such scores, which is an increase of 12.3 percent.
“Taking rigorous advanced placement courses helps students prepare for college,” said Commissioner of Education Dr. Tom Kimbrell. “I am encouraged by the increasing diversity among our students who are taking advanced courses. It is evident from their success that we need to continue to provide access to challenging courses and opportunities that enrich the lives of all students.”
The gains cut across demographic lines:
— Among white students, the number of test takers increased 6.2 percent and scores of 3, 4, and 5 increased 14.7 percent.
— Among black students, the number of test takers increased 7.4 percent and scores of 3, 4 and 5 increased 15.4 percent.
— Among Hispanic students, the number of test takers increased 19.9 percent and scores of 3, 4, and 5 increased 12.4 percent.
Arkansas is the only state that requires every school district to offer at least one AP course in each of the four core subjects — mathematics, English, social studies, and science. Arkansas also picks up the cost of each AP test as an incentive for students to take AP.