In the past year, AP test scores have soared within Montgomery County Public Schools, with strong increases in AP performance among minority students.
According to an MCPS memorandum regarding AP tests, scores have improved consecutively every year. In 2008, 70.6 percent of MCPS AP exam-takers received a score of 3 or higher. By 2011, that number had risen to 71.8 percent and in 2012 it shot up to 75 percent. A press release published by MCPS on December 6 relayed that 73 percent of 2013 exams received a “college ready score” of 3 or higher. The press release also said, “MCPS students continue to outperform their state and national peers on AP participation and performance.” According to information published by MCPS and the College Board in mid-February, over half of MCPS graduates earn a score of at least 3 on at least one AP test, compared to a little under a third of all Maryland high school graduates and roughly a fifth of high school graduates across the country.
Schools in the Bethesda and Potomac area have certainly seen much success with APs: 88.7 percent of students’ exams at Churchill High School earned an average of 3 or higher, while Whitman High School boasted a rate of 89.2 percent, higher than the rates of any other school in the county. However, much of the increase in MCPS’ AP success rates may also stem from efforts to close the achievement gap and to encourage minority students to take AP classes. In 2010, only 44.7 percent of African American AP examinees scored a 3 or higher; over the next two years, that rate jumped by over 7 percentage points.
In December, an article in the Examiner argued that “the claim that an AP score of 3 can also be considered a ‘college-ready score’ is of dubious validity.” The article noted that many colleges only except 4 and 5 scores in order to qualify for college credit. However, not all students think about colleges when signing up for AP courses.
Senior Julia Fine of BCC took five AP exams during her junior year and is planning to take five more in May. Fine said, “I take APs because I like to be challenged in my classes and I find the subjects interesting.” To study, Fine rereads her notes and takes practice tests.
Senior Huey Shih of Blair took ten AP exams junior year, even though he was only enrolled in three AP classes. He received a 3 or higher on every exam. “I talked to teachers for work sheets and went to the library to use textbooks to study. I really enjoyed some of the subjects that were not being taught at Blair. For example, I took microeconomics last year and I couldn’t fit macroeconomics into my schedule, so I self-studied,” Shih recalled. Shih took two AP exams during his sophomore year and plans to only take AP exams this May for the classes he is enrolled in.
Article by Leigh Cook, MoCo Student staff writer