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Steady growth in Advanced Placement program

AP results part of SAT data release from the College Board
Monday, October 10, 2016


Tom McCarthy, DPI Communications Director, (608) 266-3559

MADISON — Wisconsin experienced another increase in Advanced Placement (AP) participation, with an additional 2,457 students taking exams in the 2015 16 school year compared to the prior school year.

Nationally, 2.3 million public school students took just over 4 million AP exams in the 38 tested subjects, a 5.3 percent increase in student participation from the prior year compared to Wisconsin’s 6.5 percent jump. Wisconsin has experienced steady growth in the AP program over the years and dramatic growth from 20 years ago.Chart of AP participation -1996 to 2016

“We have seen a generational shift in expectations for high school graduates,” explained State Superintendent Tony Evers. “Students who wanted to go on to college have always been encouraged to take a rigorous, preparatory curriculum. However, today’s students are expected to graduate with some college-level experience through the AP program or opportunities offered in partnerships or with our technical colleges and private colleges and universities.”

Wisconsin public school students took 68,316 AP exams in May 2016 and earned scores of three or higher on 65.5 percent of those exams. Nationally, public school students took 2,268,277 AP exams, earning scores of three or higher on 55.9 percent of the exams. Students earning a score of three, four, or five on AP exams generally receive college credit, advanced standing, or both at many colleges and universities worldwide. 

While most student groups in Wisconsin had better AP performance than their peers nationally, disparities in achievement by race and ethnicity remain. Because the College Board changed its collection and reporting of race and ethnicity data categories to align with the U.S. Department of Education guidelines, valid inferences cannot be made when comparing the 2015-16 race and ethnicity data with prior years.  

“Education is the key to a successful future,” Evers said. “Breaking a cycle of low achievement is no easy task and cannot happen if we are unwilling to address achievement gaps and their underlying causes head on. Our kids need support, starting at home and throughout their communities, that continues through the caring, dedicated teachers they interact with in our schools. Building strong relationships so all kids achieve will ensure our students graduate college and career ready.”

The preliminary AP results accompanied the College Board’s national release of results for both its old and new SAT exams. Wisconsin had 1,046 public school students in the class of 2016 take the old SAT at least once through January, with critical reading, mathematics, and writing scores that averaged 128 points higher than averages for the 1.3 million public school graduates who took the old SAT. 

There were 840 Wisconsin public school students who took the new SAT between March and June of 2016, and nearly 1.36 million students took the new SAT nationally. According to the College Board, the SAT was redesigned to make it more straightforward and connected to classroom learning. Some of the changes included removing the guessing penalty, focusing on words students will use in college and careers, and making the essay optional. 

Wisconsin had a total of 1,079 students in the class of 2016 who took an SAT assessment, with some students taking the exam more than once. The SAT suite of assessments, launched in 2015, includes the SAT, a college aptitude exam, and PSAT-related assessments. Formerly known as the Pre-SAT and National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT), Wisconsin had 17,308 10th- and 11th-grade students who took the redesigned PSAT/NMSQT during the 2015-16 school year.

Wisconsin adopted the ACT suite of assessments for high school students. Results from the second year of statewide testing of high school juniors will be reported later this month.

NOTES: A chart and tables with additional results for SAT and Advanced Placement are available in the official release. School- and district-level Advanced Placement data is available on the WISEdash Public Portal, with 2015-16 data available on Oct. 18. Statewide totals on WISEdash may not match numbers in this news release, which is based on materials supplied by the College Board.

Official Release