WASHINGTON – Maryland public high schoolers outperformed students from every state but one on the Advanced Placement exams last year, an achievement that officials attributed to an aggressive effort to enroll students in AP classes.
The College Board, which produces the AP tests, reported last week that 19.4 percent of the Maryland students who took the tests in 2004 showed “college-level mastery” on at least one of the exams.
That was well above the national average of 13 percent and trailed only New York, where 21.2 percent of test-takers exhibited college-level mastery of the subjects, or a score of three out of five.
“The state of Maryland has committed a good amount of resources . . . to making sure all students are college ready,” said Ayeola Boothe-Kinlaw, an associate director for the College Board.
Those resources include a College Board employee who works “in-house” at the Maryland State Department of Education, for example, making sure that students take preliminary SAT’s in 10th grade and AP exams throughout high school.
State and local school officials said they have also pushed hard to enroll students in AP classes, including students who would not typically consider signing up for advanced coursework.
Boothe-Kinlaw said all those efforts appear to have paid off: Maryland had the highest increase of AP test-takers in the nation last year.
State officials were “really happy,” with the results of the AP tests, said Bill Reinhard, a spokesman for the state Education Department, but there are other reasons behind the push to get students involved in AP courses.
For one thing, research from the U.S. Department of Education shows that students who take college-level classes while still in high school are more likely to complete college.
“It tells the child, ‘Jeez, I can do this,'” Reinhard said.
He also said that AP instructors often work with students after school to prepare them for the rigorous tests, and students report that their AP instructors are “among the most committed teachers” they have worked with.
The state made a particular effort to reach out to students and parents in minority communities, in an effort to close a gap between the percentage of white students and minority students who take the tests.
According to the College Board, for example, black students make up 32.9 percent of the student population in Maryland but accounted for only 13.9 percent of the AP test takers.
Reinhard said the equity gap for African Americans has been “reduced significantly,” but conceded that it is still a concern.
He said one reason for the gap is the AP program’s roots in private and suburban schools. So the state has targeted city, as well as suburban schools, in an effort to recruit “students who might not have considered college before.”
“Maryland is working diligently to overcome (the gap),” Reinhard said.
The state appears to have closed the gap with other minority groups: Hispanic students, for example, constituted 4.4 percent of Maryland’s public high school students in 2004 and made up 5.2 percent of AP test takers that year, the College Board said.
“In Latino communities . . . with large student populations there has been a lot of effort put forth to work with the families,” Reinhard said.
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