College-level coursework paying off for state's high-school students
Credit Washington state's growing focus on academic rigor for a 9.3 percent increase in Advanced Placement course participation rates and test scores over the past decade.
Seattle Times Editorial
SUSTAINED rises in the number of Washington students taking Advanced Placement classes and doing well on the national tests are key indicators that more high-school students are on track for college or career training.
This is good news. Important efforts to inject more rigor in high-school academics are taking hold. While motivated students have always used AP classes for college preparation, more high-school students are realizing the importance of these rigorous courses.
Increased participation and test scores held true for nearly all groups, including low-income students.
Credit new and innovative approaches to getting more students enrolled in AP classes. A smart example is the Federal Way School District, which automatically enrolls middle- and high-school students in AP classes. Students must opt out, rather than opt in.
Benefits extend beyond the surge in participation to a rise in student confidence. The experience of Federal Way is that students who may not have seen themselves as college material find that once enrolled in AP classes, they can rise to meet the expectations of challenging coursework.
Last year, 19,162 students, or 29.8 percent of the class of 2011, took at least one AP exam, according to the College Board's eighth annual "AP Report to the Nation." That's an 866-student increase from 2010.
The rise was mirrored in AP test scores. In 2011, 18.4 percent of Washington 12th-graders scored a three or greater — a score that generally qualifies for college credit — on an AP test. In 2010, 17.1 percent of students scored a three or greater.
American Indian and Alaska Native students were the only groups whose participation rates and scores declined. Given the turnaround with other groups of students, educators should find out what's wrong.
The AP program has become a well-traveled bridge in our state linking high-school students with college-level rigor. To keep up the good work, more teachers must be trained to teach AP courses and more students prepared for the rigors of these college-level classes.