National average AP exam score increases with test enrollment
Published: Monday, March 11, 2013
Updated: Monday, April 22, 2013 21:04
The annual AP Report to the Nation found a slight national increase in the average score on Advanced Placement exams for the first time in a decade.
The average national score improved from a 2.80 to a 2.83, according to College Board. Along with the average score, the number of test-takers has increased 32.4 percent from the year before, according to the report. Last year, 954,070 graduates leaving high school took an AP exam. Of those students, 573,472 students scored a three or higher on the exam.
Education professor Robert Hampel’s freshman honors colloquium class, listed as EDUC319, has some students studying the history and trends of the AP exam. The research on the advanced placement tests from the ‘50s to present led to some skepticism about the recently released data.
“We looked at the data, and it’s such a slight increase, that it could just be a fluke,” freshman Nicole Price said. “It’s hard to tell right now if it actually means anything.”
The increased number of students enrolling in the test could also affect the increase in average score, she said.
Price’s classmate freshman Katie Hillman said along with the increase in test-takers, the scale of the scoring also makes the data a little more skewed.
“I think if you wait a few years, and see if it keeps increasing, that will be a better determinant,” said Hillman.
Another student in Hampel’s class, freshman Kyle Lusignea, said he agreed the numbers could be somewhat misleading but he did not think they should be ignored.
“At the same time, I know from my experience, there has been a very conscious effort to better prepare students for the exams,” Lusignea said. “I think it would be a little remiss to neglect that idea. My teachers focused a lot on it.”
In 2012, a nationwide total of 20,943 AP coordinators, high school counselors and principals used AP data from the previous yearly report to shape their schools’ programs, according to College Board.
Hampel said his course has also sparked some in-class discussion on the amount of pressure to take many AP courses in high school.
The sentiment is not from all of his students, he said. What is coming across to him is a sense that, in their experience, many of their high school classmates took AP courses more to build a “beautiful college application” than because they truly love those subjects.
Having a competitive edge when applying for colleges is an idea Hampel said he believes drives students to take more courses.
“There is this real question of, ‘Why are people taking AP?’” Hampel said.
Whatever the reason some high school students take the exam, there were still hundreds of thousands of prepared students in the United States last year who either did not take an available AP subject for which they had potential or attended a school that did not offer the subject, according to College Board.
The report collects data on public schools, so private schools are left out of the mix.
“In most subject areas, black/African American, Hispanic/Latino and American Indian/Alaska Native students who have the same AP readiness as their white and Asian/Asian American/Pacific Islander peers are significantly less likely to experience such AP course work,” the report says.
Socioeconomic factors play into all parts of schooling, especially these costly standardized tests, Lusignea said.
“That is something I’ve noticed that a lot of reformers do not consider,” Lusignea said. “They put a lot of emphasis on the school. They ignore any exponential factors and expect the school to overcome the socioeconomic factors.”
Not only are the tests themselves costly, but the studying materials can add up too. Expenses can put a damper the chances of success for students from low socioeconomic status.
Study books were more practical in terms of help and studying to Lusignea. The individual studying may be more helpful than specific lectures, he said.
Hampel said that different states and districts have varying policies as to whether or not they will help pay for students to take the exams.
“There is variation and you may be in luck or out of luck depending on where you live,” Hampel said. “That is just a simple, descriptive, common fact.”
Price said when the exams were first created they cost $10 to take. She said the first state to ever begin reimbursing students for the cost was Texas in 1995.
The fee for each exam now is $89, according to College Board.
Despite the exponential increase in cost, 17 states exceeded the national average. Delaware was not one of them. In the state, 16.4 percent of high school graduates scored a three or higher. This number jumped 6.9 percentage points since the 2002 findings.
Maryland had the most students passing in the country with 29.6 percent, which almost doubles Delaware’s percentage. Mississippi had the least with 4.6 percent.
While the testing process can be expensive if not paid for by the district, passing scores can save college-bound students money in some cases. Hillman said, in general, individuals are starting to realize money can be saved by entering college with credits. She came to the university with many breadth requirements already filled.
Freshman Steph Espie does not have to take any general education courses at the university. She said she is happy she can take more classes that she actually is interested in.
“I pretty much came in an entire semester ahead because of AP courses,” Espie said.
However, some colleges, like Dartmouth College, have recently been put in the public eye because of this very issue, Hampel said. Dartmouth has recently become more strict about accepting AP scores, he said.
“It is an interesting system,” Hampel said. “You have this national, one single AP program, but then colleges have this enormous freedom and discretion in terms of what they do with it.”