Louisiana students earn most Advanced Placement credits in state’s history

Louisiana students earn most Advanced Placement credits in state’s history

Danielle Dreilinger, NOLA.com | The Times-PicayuneBy Danielle Dreilinger, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune 
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on July 30, 2013 at 7:09 PM, updated July 30, 2013 at 7:32 PM

Louisiana high school students earned college credit on 5,144 Advanced Placement exams in 2013 — the largest number in the state’s history. The state also saw the biggest increase ever in the number of students taking the test: from 6,637 students last year to 10,529, the biggest gain in the nation.

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Gov. Bobby Jindal on Tuesday credited a state initiative to encourage schools to offer these courses. In 2012, the state had the fifth-lowest AP participation rate in the country, with 16.1 percent of high school graduates taking one of the tests.

“Today’s announcement that a growing number of our state’s high school students are already earning college credit before they even leave for school is more proof that our hard work is paying off,” Jindal said.

To earn college credit, test takers must score at least 3 on a 5-point scale. A passing grade often lets students place out of introductory college coursework.

The average high school student took two AP classes for a total of 23,435 courses.

That said, the percentage of students passing the exam dropped from 44 percent to 33 percent: 3,501 of the 10,529 test-takers. That was OK by state Education Superintendent John White, given the alternative.

“The state increased the number of tests by nearly 50 percent. That means schools are providing opportunity for kids, even when it’s challenging,” he said in a statement. “It’s better to err on that side and risk a lower pass rate than to do what has been happening and err on the side of easier course work. Kids who haven’t experienced rigor in high school struggle in college; better to struggle now.”

White also said that “Advanced Placement is the highest indicator of college success.” And indeed, a 2009 study from the College Board, the AP’s parent company, found that students who take AP exams outperform their peers in college freshman grade-point average and success in moving on to the second year of college — no matter what score they receive.

As an incentive to offer AP coursework, high schools now receive points for every student who takes an AP exam, with the most points for students who score 3, 4 or 5. The results are counted inSchool Performance Scores, which determines whether charters stay open and whether conventional schools are eligible for a state takeover.

To motivate teens, a new law passed this spring gives more weight to AP courses when calculating eligibility for Louisiana’s TOPS scholarships. The state also covers test fees for low-income students.

Whatever the impetus, efforts clearly paid off at several New Orleans-area high schools that were among the state’s top performers. Benjamin Franklin High in Orleans had the second-highest percentage of test-takers earning college credit: 84 percent, second only to West Monroe High School. Haynes Academy School for Advanced Studies in Metairie followed at third with an 82 percent pass rate.

Also in the top 10 were Mandeville High, 79 percent pass rate; Fontainebleau High in Mandeville, 73 percent; and Lusher in New Orleans, 65 percent.

At a district level, five of the New Orleans area’s eight districts beat the state average for percentage of students earning credit: Jefferson, Orleans, Plaquemines, St. Charles and St. Tammany — though the Jefferson pass rate was nine percentage points lower than the previous school year’s results.

Rates were significantly lower in St. John the Baptist Parish, where 12 percent of student test-takers scored 3 or above, and in the Recovery School District, where the rate was only 6 percent.

Table: Change in AP Participation and Pass Rates in Greater New Orleans and Louisiana, 2011-2013

2011-2012 2012-2013
District Number of students taking AP exams Percent of students scoring 3+ Number of students taking AP exams Percent of students scoring 3+ Percent change in students scoring 3+
Jefferson 496 45.2% 713 36.0% -9.1%
Orleans 932 54.7% 1,106 49.5% -5.3%
Plaquemines 31 41.9% 74 40.5% -1.4%
Recovery 174 <5% 405 5.9% NA
St. Bernard 34 47.1% 86 26.7% -20.3%
St. Charles 288 44.4% 310 42.6% -1.9%
St. John the Baptist NA NA ≥40 12.2% NA
St. Tammany 423 70.4% 487 65.3% -5.2%
Louisiana total 6,637 41.4% 10,529 33.3% -8.1%

Data source: Louisiana Department of Education. NA = No data.



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