MCPS Students Take More Than 31,700 AP Exams in 2011

December 12, 2011
More African American, Hispanic Students Participating

Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) students took more than 31,700 Advanced Placement (AP) exams in 2011—an all-time high for the district and a five percent increase over the previous year. At the same time, the percentage of exams receiving a college-ready score of 3 or higher remained steady at 72 percent, significantly better than the performance of students across the state and the nation.

“We should be extremely proud of our continued effort to provide all MCPS students access to high-quality, rigorous classes like Advanced Placement,” said Board of Education President Shirley Brandman. “We must remain dedicated to not only giving our students access to AP classes, but making sure they are well prepared and successful.”

The 31,734 AP exams taken by MCPS students accounted for nearly one-third of the AP exams taken by Maryland students in 2011. MCPS represents about 17 percent of the state’s public school enrollment. In 2011, MCPS accounted for 40 percent of the state’s AP exams that received a score of 3 or higher.

In MCPS, 71.8 percent of the AP exams taken in 2011 scored 3 or higher, compared to 59 percent in the state of Maryland and 56 percent in the nation.

“Participation and success in AP classes is an indicator that a student is ready for the rigors of college and the workplace,” said Superintendent of Schools Joshua P. Starr. “I am extremely encouraged that the AP participation of African American and Hispanic students continues to grow, while their performance on these exams holds steady at rates far greater than their peers across the state and the nation.”

The number of AP exams taken by Hispanic students jumped 12 percent in 2011 and increased 3 percent for African American students. For both groups of students, the number of exams receiving a score of 3 or higher jumped 7 percent.

The percentage of AP exams taken by African American students that scored at least a 3 (46%) was significantly higher than the percentage of African American students receiving that score in the state of Maryland (28%) and the nation (26%). Similarly, the percentage of AP exams taken by Hispanic (55%) students that earned scores of 3 or higher was greater than the percentage of exams for Hispanic students in Maryland (50%) and the nation (39%) receiving such a score.

Scoring a 3, 4 or 5 on an AP exam is one of the MCPS Seven Keys to College and Career Readiness—a series of benchmarks that indicates a student is ready for postsecondary education and the workplace. Data from the MCPS graduating classes of 2001 through 2004 show that more than three-quarters (76%) of the students who scored a 3 or higher on an AP exam received a college degree within six years of graduation. This was three times higher than the rate of students who did not take an AP exam (25.3 %).

Among other highlights of 2011 AP performance in MCPS:

-  Sixteen of the school system’s 25 high schools saw an increase in the number of AP exams taken over 2010, with the largest increases at Walter Johnson (up 365 exams), Poolesville (276) and Sherwood (215) high schools.
-  Between 2010 and 2011, 18 of the 25 high schools showed an increase in the number of AP exams taken by Hispanic students, and 14 out of the 25 high schools showed an increase in the number of AP exams taken by African American students. 
-  Four high schools—James Hubert Blake, Damascus, Poolesville and Springbrook—saw increases in both AP exam participation and performance for Hispanic and African American students. 
-  In 2011, the ten most frequently taken AP exams were English Language and Composition; English Literature and Composition; Computer Science A; Calculus AB; Calculus BC; Statistics; European History; Microeconomics; Macroeconomics; and Human Geography.

Dr. Starr said he was pleased, overall, with the AP results in 2011, but acknowledged there is much work left to be done.

“The rate of success on AP varies among groups of our students and among our schools,” Dr. Starr said. “We must dedicate ourselves to taking the necessary steps to reduce that variance so that our students can continue to thrive and our district can continue to be a national model of excellence.” 

Memo on AP Exam Participation and Performance in 2011

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