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For Immediate Release
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
Contact:Heidi Guarino 781-338-3106 or JC Considine 781-338-3112

Massachusetts Students Increase Success Rate on AP Exams

Performance & Participation Rise but Large Racial/Ethnic Gaps Persist

MALDEN - Massachusetts' public school students increased their academic performance on the AP exams in 2009 with more than one in five scoring 3 or higher – a solid indicator of potential success in college, according to results released today.

"The rigors of today's world require the same kind of dedication I see in these students and their educators, and I am very proud of their accomplishment," said Governor Deval Patrick. "We must continue to bring that same level of commitment to the task of ensuring all our students are prepared and ready to achieve."

Education officials hailed the results as another example of the hard work demonstrated by students and teachers and an example of the statewide focus on improving education for all students while noting that performance and participation rates still lag for minorities, especially for African American and Hispanic students.

According to results released Wednesday by the College Board, 22.1 percent of the state's public school students in the class of 2009 earned a score of 3 or higher on at least one AP Exam during their time in high school. This is an increase over the 2008 average of 20.8 percent and eclipses the national average of 15.9. Massachusetts ranked fourth in the nation behind Maryland (24.8 percent), New York (23.8 percent), and Virginia (22.9 percent).

"Our fundamental goal in education must be to prepare all students to graduate from high school ready for success in college and careers," said Massachusetts Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester. "AP is a proven predictor of college success. While I am pleased by this year's results, we must continue to improve access to AP classes and exams for all students across the Commonwealth."

Statewide, 31 percent of students in the class of 2009 took at least one AP Exam in high school, up from 29.2 percent last year and an increase from the 23.9 percent participation rate in the class of 2004.

In all, 19,086 public school students in the class of 2009 took at least one exam. The 10 most popular were: U.S. History (6,836 exams), English Literature (6,008), Calculus AB (5,091), Biology (4,023), Psychology (3,543), English Language (3,329), Statistics (2,667), Chemistry (2,326), Spanish Language (1,950), and European History (1,924).

While participation rates have increased in general, results show that fewer minority students are taking at least one AP Exam. Statewide, 31 percent of all students in the class of 2009 took an AP Exam during high school, which includes 19 percent of African-American students, 20 percent of Hispanic/Latino students, 65 percent of Asian students, and 30 percent of white students.

Results show that minority students are also less successful on AP exams than their white and Asian counterparts. The percent of students in the class of 2009 who took at least one AP Exam and scored a 3 or higher on at least one exam was: 30 percent for African-American students (246 of 833 students); 52 percent for Hispanic/Latino students (629 of 1,218 students), 77 percent for Asian students (1,396 of 1,806 students), and 76 percent for white students (10,456 of 13,856 students).

"Our goal for education must remain on access to excellence for all students," said Education Secretary Paul Reville. "Increasing participation, and performance, on AP exams is one factor in our overall strategy to provide all students with the education they will need to be successful students and contributing members to our society."

In January, Governor Patrick signed historic legislation that will turnaround underperforming schools, promote innovation and choice, and eliminate achievement gaps that persist despite the successes of the state's landmark Education Reform Act of 1993. The bill expands supports for students and schools needing the most help, and represents a major part of the Governor's education reform agenda designed to give all children the chance they deserve to succeed.

One statewide initiative that has demonstrated success in expanding minority access to AP classes and exams is the Massachusetts Math & Science Initiative (MMSI). Massachusetts, in partnership with the Mass Insight Education and Research Institute, received a grant from the National Math and Science Initiative to increase student enrollment in mathematics, science and English AP courses and performance on the accompanying AP Exams.

In 2009, the 10 high schools currently running the MMSI program saw a 39 percent increase in the number of qualifying scores (3 or higher) on AP exams in English, Mathematics, and Science. That included a 71 percent increase (from 103 to 176 students) in African-American and Hispanic students earning a qualifying score in English, Mathematics, and Science at those ten schools.

The high schools involved in the program in 2009 included: Chelsea, Revere, Malden, O'Bryant in Boston, Milton, Marlborough, North in Worcester, Northampton, and Central and Renaissance in Springfield.

AP is a rigorous academic program that offers more than 30 courses in a wide range of subjects and college-level assessments developed and scored by college and university faculty members and experienced AP teachers. According to the College Board, a score of 3 or higher on an AP exam represents the score point that is predictive of college success and college graduation.

Last Updated: February 10, 2010
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