MADISON — Wisconsin continued its steady growth in the Advanced Placement (AP) program, with more students taking rigorous, college-level coursework while in high school and more graduates earning a qualifying score that gives them a head start on postsecondary studies.
The College Board’s report, “AP Cohort Data: Graduating Class of 2015,” showed that Wisconsin had 20,825 public school graduates, or 35.3 percent of the class of 2015, who took 59,426 AP exams while in high school. Participation is up by 966 students from the class of 2014. For the state’s 2015 graduates, 24.7 percent earned a score of three or higher on an AP exam compared to 23.6 percent of 2014 graduates. Wisconsin remains in the top dozen states nationwide for AP performance.
“The Advanced Placement Program provides our kids with college-level coursework that exposes them to the rigors of higher education while they are still in high school,” said State Superintendent Tony Evers. “We’re continuing to see growth in participation and achievement, which is a good place to be. I’m very proud of our teachers for their efforts to prepare our young people to be successful on these college-level exams.”
The Advanced Placement program offers 37 courses, which conclude with an end-of-year exam. Students who earn a score of three or higher on the five-point scale may receive college credit, advanced standing, or both from most colleges and universities. The College Board estimates that Wisconsin’s public school graduates and their families will save about $35.5 million in college costs through qualifying AP exams. The calculation assumes three credits for each AP exam scored three or higher and an average cost for in-state tuition and fees of $293.83 per credit.
More than 1.1 million of the nation’s 2015 graduates took an AP exam during their high school careers. They represent 37.3 percent of the 2,973,914 public school graduates in the class of 2015. The percentage of graduates nationwide who scored three or higher on an AP exam was 22.4 percent.
Students from low-income families represent 13.5 percent of Wisconsin’s AP exam‑takers for the 2015 cohort. By comparison, for the class of 2010, 8.1 percent of AP exam‑takers were from low‑income families and in2005, just 4.4 percent of low-income public school graduates took an AP exam. Wisconsin law requires that school districts pay the cost of Advanced Placement exam fees for students who are eligible for free or reduced‑price school meals under federal income guidelines.
Recently, Wisconsin was the recipient of a $1.1 million, three-year Javits grant to increase the number of underrepresented students in gifted education programs. The Department of Public Instruction is working with the Kenosha Unified, Racine Unified, and Milwaukee Public school districts to identify and provide services to high-ability and high-potential primary-grade students who are from low-income families or who are learning English. By working with first-, second-, and third-grade students in these schools, the grant will support future success in advanced coursework.
“There are disparities in participation in rigorous coursework that can lead to college and workforce success,” Evers noted “We have work to do to ensure every child has the opportunity to reach their full potential. We want all students to graduate college and career ready.”
Many high schools offer AP courses as part of the established curriculum. Through the Wisconsin Digital Learning Collaborative, any student in Wisconsin can take AP courses online to supplement their school’s offerings. The collaborative — a partnership among Cooperative Educational Service Agency 9’s Wisconsin Virtual School, the DPI, and the Wisconsin eSchool Network — provides online and blended learning opportunities for students to access AP courses. Currently, 19 AP courses are offered.
In addition to overall AP growth, Wisconsin’s 2015 public school graduates took 20,701 STEM exams, an increase of 1,721 from the previous year. Five of the 10 most popular AP exams in Wisconsin are in the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics): Biology, Calculus AB and BC, Chemistry, and Statistics. Other top exams are Psychology, English Language and Composition, English Literature and Composition, U.S. History, and U.S. Government and Politics.
The College Board named 31 Wisconsin public school districts to its Sixth Annual Honor Roll. The honor roll recognizes districts that simultaneously increase access to AP coursework while increasing the percentage of students earning a three or higher on their AP exams.
NOTES: The College Board’s “AP Cohort Data: Graduating Class of 2015” reports information for public school graduates only. Breakdowns by racial and ethnic groups or by schools and districts are not available from this report. Additional tables on AP data and an AP Participation Map is available in the official news release.