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MADISON — More of Wisconsin’s students are graduating from public high schools having successfully completed college-level coursework, according to a recent report on the Advanced Placement (AP) program. For 2014 state graduates, 23.6 percent earned a score of three or higher on an AP exam compared to 22.2 percent of 2013 graduates.
The College Board’s “AP Cohort Data: Graduating Class of 2014” ranked Wisconsin the “Best in the Midwest” for AP performance and among the top dozen states in the nation for the percentage of graduates who were successful on their end-of-course AP exams. The state has seen 10.4 percent increase in AP performance over 10 years.
“We’re heading in a good direction with continued growth and strong performance in the AP program,” said State Superintendent Tony Evers. “Overall, our public schools are doing a great job preparing our students to be successful on these college-level exams.”
Of Wisconsin’s 2014 graduates, 19,858 took an AP exam during their high school career, which represents 33.6 percent of graduates. Those students took 55,085 AP exams in 34 subject areas, and 68.1 percent of exams were scored three or higher on the five-point scale. Many students take multiple AP exams, but are only counted once as a graduate. Most colleges and universities grant credit, advanced standing, or both for students who are successful on an AP exam. The College Board estimates Wisconsin’s 2014 public school graduates and their families saved about $32.9 million in college costs through qualifying AP exams. The calculation assumes three credits for each AP exam scored three or higher and an average cost for in-state tuition and fees of $292.70 per credit.
More than 1 million of the nation’s 2014 graduates took an AP exam during their high school careers. They represent 35.7 percent of the 2,936,834 graduates in the Class of 2014. The percentage of graduates nationwide who scored three or higher on an AP exam was 21.6 percent.
Students from low-income families represented 12.3 percent of Wisconsin’s AP exam-takers for the 2014 cohort. For the Class of 2010, 8.1 percent of AP exam-takers were from low-income families. Wisconsin law requires that school districts pay the cost of Advanced Placement exam fees for students who are eligible for free or reduced-price school meals under federal income guidelines.
Many high schools offer AP courses as part of the established curriculum. Through the Wisconsin Digital Learning Collaborative, any student in Wisconsin can take AP courses online to supplement their school’s offerings. The collaborative — a partnership among Cooperative Educational Service Agency 9’s Wisconsin Virtual School, the DPI, and the Wisconsin eSchool Network— provides online and blended learning opportunities for students to access AP courses.
Currently, 18 AP courses are offered.
In addition to overall AP growth, five of the 10 most popular AP exams in Wisconsin are in the burgeoning STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics). Graduates took 15,590 STEM exams in Biology, Calculus AB and BC, Chemistry, and Statistics. Other top exams were Psychology, English Literature and Composition, English Language and Composition, U.S. History, and U.S. Government and Politics. Wisconsin is the only state in the nation with Psychology as its most popular AP exam. The state’s 2014 graduates took 8,200 AP exams in psychology, an increase of 294 exams from the Class of 2013.
The College Board named 26 Wisconsin public school districts to its Fifth Annual Honor Roll. The Honor Roll recognizes districts that simultaneously increase access to AP coursework while increasing the percentage of students earning a three or higher on their AP exams.
“The Wisconsin education community has been tremendously creative in finding ways to offer rigorous,college-preparatory coursework to our students,” Evers noted. “Unfortunately, the governor’s 2015-17 budget cuts funding, which means districts will be strapped to pay for the opportunities our students deserve.”