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More students in L.A., state taking and passing AP exams

February 20, 2013 |  1:55 pm

Photo: Scott Sadeghian, 17, in an advanced placement class at Polytechnic High School in 2011. Credit: Katie Falkenberg / For The Times

More students in the Los Angeles Unified School District took and successfully passed an Advanced Placement exam last year, reflecting a rise in success on the college-level tests in California and nationwide.

A record number of students took Advanced Placement exams in 2012 — nearly one-third of high school graduates took at least one of the tests and nearly one in five had passing scores, according to a report released Wednesday by the College Board, the nonprofit that administers the exams.

In 2002, about 471,000 students nationwide took at least one AP exam. In 2012, more than 954,000 did.

And with the largest and most diverse population of students taking the tests on record, average scores and the percentage passing both have increased nationwide.

The results show that teachers and students seem to have bucked the notion that more access to these rigorous classes causes lower averages for the schools, said College Board President David Coleman.

“We can simultaneously improve both equity and excellence in this country,” he said.

Still, the report notes that more than 300,000 graduates in 2012 who were identified as having “AP potential” through scores on other tests did not take any AP exams.

And there remains a wide gap in access to the high school classes between low-income and minority students and their white and Asian peers.

In most subject areas, African American, Latino, American Indian and Alaska Native students are far less likely to enroll in AP courses than their white or Asian classmates, the report said.

In California, about 37% of graduates in the class of 2012 took at least one AP exam, up from about 29% in 2007 and 24% in 2002.

Nearly a quarter of California graduates in 2012 passed at least one exam — the eighth-highest in the country.

To pass an AP exam, students need to score a 3 or higher on a five-point scale. Many colleges and universities offer college credit for passing scores.

State Supt. of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson said he was pleased with the state’s progress.

“These results reflect the high value California students and families place on being ready for college — and the increasing success our students and schools are having in achieving that goal,” Torlakson said.

Latinos in California made up about 44% of high school graduates in 2012. But among graduates who took at least one AP exam, 37% were Latino. That figure is up, however, from about 30% in 2007 and about 28% in 2002.

Latinos made up about a third of students who passed at least one exam in California.

African American students made up about 7% of California high school graduates in 2012, but only about 4% of those who took an exam, compared to 3.6% in 2007, and 1.6% in 2002.

In L.A. Unified, 22,932 students took at least one exam last year — an increase of more than 8% over last year.

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— Stephen Ceasar

Photo: Scott Sadeghian, 17, in an advanced-placement class at Polytechnic High School in 2011. Credit: Katie Falkenberg / For The Times

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