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AP test results show California students doing better, but fewer are taking the tests [Updated]

February 10, 2010 | 12:11 pm
Though California is one of seven states with the greatest percentage of seniors passing Advanced Placement tests, the rate of students taking those college-level classes has slowed dramatically, according to an annual report released Wednesday.

[Updated at 1:47 a.m.: A previous version of this post stated that California was one of seven states that posted the highest five-year gains in students passing AP tests.  It is one of seven states with the greatest percentage of seniors passing AP tests. It also said the number of students taking those college-level classes has slowed dramatically. The rate of students taking those classes has slowed dramatically.] 

In 2009, about 22% of California’s graduating class earned a score of three or higher in one or more AP exams. This compares with 16% nationally.

Although the number of students taking AP tests has almost doubled in the last decade, course enrollments are slowing, particularly in California, said Trevor Packer, the vice president of the College Board, which released the report.

In the last decade, California saw an 8% average growth in AP course enrollment per year. In the 2008-2009 school year, that growth rate slowed by almost half, and the current academic year’s growth rate was only 1%. 

“In the 2010 exams, we expect to see a further slowing down,” Packer said.

Packer said schools lack the budgets and resources to train teachers for the advanced classes. AP teachers are also retiring at twice the rate of regular instructors, he said.

Robert Schaeffer, the public education director for FairTest, a group that is critical of standardized testing, said AP courses are expensive and usually require smaller class sizes.

“Money is the driving factor,” he said. “If you don’t have the flexibility in your budget to send a potential new AP teacher off for the necessary training, you won’t have a quality course and maybe you won’t have a course at all.”

-- Nicole Santa Cruz

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