Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

February 12, 2014

Getting better

Kentucky teens show great improvements on AP exams

The Independent

ASHLAND — More Kentucky high school students than ever are taking Advanced Placement classes with many of them earning college credit as a result of the scores they receive on the end-of-course exams for AP classes. In fact, the percentage of Kentucky students who score a 3 or higher on AP exams has more the doubled since 2003.

That’s the good news that assures us a lot of good things are happening in Kentucky’s high schools and more and more teenagers are willing to put in the extra time necessary to do well in the demanding AP courses. Less encouraging is the fact Kentucky students continue to score below the national average on the AP exams.

Among the class of 2013, 16.3 percent of the Kentucky teens taking end-of-course AP exams scored either a 3, 4 or 5 on the tests,  scores typically accepted by colleges for credit and placement. The nationwide average was 20 percent, or one in five students.

Scoring well on the AP exams can greatly reduce the amount of time and money required for students to earn four-year college degrees. Some begin their college careers with enough hours to be classified as sophomores. In fact, the rigorous high school program being planned by Holy Family School hopes to enable students to complete their first two years of college while still in high school.

While the 16.3 percent of Kentucky high school students who received a high enough score on their AP exams to earn college credit is below the national average, it is much higher than the 7 percent of Kentucky students who earned 3 or higher on the AP exams in 2003. Thus, while Kentucky still ranks below the national average, it has made great impovements in the last decade while getting far more students to take the rigorous AP tests.

Those who teach AP courses must be qualified to do so, which requires them to take extra training to become eligible. Thus, offering more AP courses is a dual commitment among students and teachers.

Anyone who thinks the quality of teaching and learning has declined in high schools over the years should take one of the AP exams. We suspect many college graduates could not receive a 3 or higher on many of them.