W.Va. Students Taking and Earning Advanced Placement Credit

Posted: February 20, 2013

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – The number of West Virginia public school students taking college-level Advanced Placement courses and earning credit has more than doubled since 2002, according to a national report released Wednesday.  

“The Ninth Annual AP Report to the Nation,” published by the College Board, shows that 3,722 public high school graduates in West Virginia took an Advanced Placement exam in 2012, compared to 1,806 in 2002, an increase of about 106 percent. During the same time, the number of students earning college credit by scoring a 3 or higher on an AP exam increased from 886 in 2002 to 1,631 in 2012. English Language and Composition is the most common AP course taken by West Virginia students.  

“The AP report shows that some West Virginia students are making the most of the advantage Advanced Placement courses have to offer,” said state Superintendent of Schools Jim Phares. “Still, the small number of students who enrolled in these courses also shows we have a lot of work ahead of us to improve student achievement in West Virginia.”

The report also indicates that West Virginia is doing a poor job with AP courses when it comes to African-American students, the largest minority group in the state. In 2012, only 79 students who had enrolled in an AP course took the corresponding exam. Of those, only 22 scored a 3 or higher.

Overall, about 9.8 percent of the Class of 2012 in West Virginia scored a 3 or higher on an AP exam, compared to a national average of 19.5 percent. That percentage placed West Virginia 46th among the 50 states and Washington, D.C. Mississippi had the lowest percentage at 4.6 percent, while Maryland had the highest at nearly 30 percent.

“We must do better to reach all West Virginia students, and the state Board of Education is committed to making reforms to see that happen,” Phares said. “All children need strong literacy and math skills to succeed in school and life in the 21st century. When students do not have the ability to read fluently and to understand and apply math skills, higher level courses are closed to them and their options are limited.”

Encouraging more students to enroll in Advanced Placement courses is one step West Virginia is taking to increase rigor in its schools. To do so, the state Department of Education is working with the West Virginia Center for Professional Development (WVCPD), which trains educators to teach Advanced Placement courses.

"The WVCPD is doing an outstanding job providing guidance and resources to AP teachers but it is important that the board continues to be diligent and deliberate regarding this training," added Gayle Manchin, vice president of the West Virginia Board of Education. "Additionally, we need to begin encouraging our students when they are younger to take AP courses in high school."

“The WVCPD has worked with many partners to expand access and success in AP courses throughout the state,” said Dixie Billheimer, CEO of the West Virginia Center for Professional Development. “We have made steady progress during the past 10 years, but we all know that challenges remain. WVCPD is committed to working with Superintendent Phares and others to elevate AP achievement for all West Virginia students.”

In 2011, the state Department of Education and the state Board of Education joined the Center for Professional Development, the state Department of Education and the Arts, the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission and the College Board in signing the WVAP2014 agreement. The initiative seeks to create policies and practices to ensure that by 2014, 25 percent of the state's high school graduating class will participate in one or more AP courses, that 15 percent of the graduating class will score a 3 or higher on at least one AP exam, and that the equity and excellence gap for African-American students will be eliminated.

For more information, contact the West Virginia Department of Education’s Office of Communication at 304-558-2699.  

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