West Virginia's AP test scores ranked among lowest in U.S.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- While the number of West Virginia students who take Advanced Placement exams has more than doubled over the past decade, the state ranks 46th in the country for the number of students who actually pass the test to obtain college credit, according to a report released Wednesday.The annual AP Report to the Nation showed that 9.8 percent of West Virginia high school graduates achieved a score of 3 or higher on an AP test in 2012, allowing them to earn college credit. The national average is nearly twice that, at 19.5 percent.Only about 20 percent of West Virginia high school graduates left high school last year having taken an AP exam.But both the number of students taking and passing the test has consistently increased over the past 10 years.The number of students in the state succeeding on the exam has increased from 886 in 2002 to 1,631 in 2012, with English the subject with the highest scores.The number of students attempting the exam increased from about 1,800 to about 3,700 in the same timeframe. More than 1,300 of last year's exams were taken by low-income high school graduates.Though the College Board, which publishes the AP Report, awarded West Virginia with the AP Beacon Award last year for its dedication to increasing student achievement and college readiness, the state is still struggling with diversity amongst test takers.
Only 79 African-American students enrolled in an AP course last year, with 22 scoring a high enough grade to earn credit."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," state Superintendent of Schools Jim Phares said in a news release. "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."In 2011, the state Department of Education teamed up with the Center for Professional Development, the Department of Education and the Arts, the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission and the College Board in signing the WVAP2014 agreement. The initiative is dedicated to creating 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.Dixie Billheimer, CEO of the Center for Professional Development, said her department is focusing on expanding access to AP courses so that students who wouldn't normally have the opportunity to prepare themselves for college are able to take advantage of the programs.This is the first year that the Department of Education has required teachers to attend AP summer institutes every three years and fall institutes every two years, Billheimer said."We're getting a very positive response from teachers and administrators who participate in this professional development because they are very committed to helping students be successful," she said. Reach Mackenzie Mays at mackenzie.mays@wvgazette.com or 304-348-4814.
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