More Ky. students take Advanced Placement tests; state increase outpaces Fayette County

Bryan Station High School social studies teacher Jamie Mills taught her advanced-placement world history class in 2013.
Bryan Station High School social studies teacher Jamie Mills taught her advanced-placement world history class in 2013. Herald-Leader

More students in Kentucky are taking Advanced Placement tests and scoring higher, according to data released this month from the College Board.

Fayette County's numbers did not show similar increases, however.

The Advanced Placement program allows high school students to get college credit in more than 30 subjects, from high-level math and science to fine arts, if they score well on a standardized end-of-course exam.

During the past five years, the number of Kentucky public high school students taking AP examinations is up 35 percent and the number of tests with a qualifying score of 3, 4 or 5, has increased by 40 percent, state Department of Education officials said in a news release.

The number of test-takers increased from 23,443 in 2011 to 31,658 in 2015.

Most colleges require a minimum qualifying score of 3 on an AP exam to earn college credit for the course.

The number of scores of 3 to 5 increased from 17,336 in 2011 to 24,311, state Department of Education officials said.

Sahar Mohammadzadeh, a 10th-grade student at Lexington's Paul Laurence Dunbar High School, told the Herald-Leader she thought the Kentucky data were encouraging.

"The growing number of students taking and excelling in these challenging courses is compelling as they now have a greater chance of succeeding in college," said Sahar, who is on the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence's Student Voice Team.

"However, it's crucial that all schools continue to provide access to these advanced courses in order to adequately meet the increasing demand and to present students with the opportunity to master college."

Officials at Fayette County Public Schools provided Advanced Placement test data for the past three years for the district. The number of Advanced Placement scores of 3 to 5 decreased from 2,859 in 2012-13 to 2,685 in 2014-15.

The number of students taking Advanced Placement tests stayed about the same for that period at a little more than 2,000.

A single student may take multiple advanced placement tests in various courses. In Fayette County, students took fewer AP tests in 2014-15 than in 2012-13, dropping to 3,867 from 4,026.

Fayette County's situation in terms of Advanced Placement scores is somewhat different than in some other parts of the state, district spokeswoman Lisa Deffendall said. Students at Tates Creek High School are enrolled in the rigorous International Baccalaureate program and take IB exams rather than AP exams. Colleges recognize scores on those tests for course credit just as they do AP exams, she said.

Looking at IB and Advanced Placement tests, Superintendent Manny Caulk said the number of test-takers had increased slightly but the number of exams taken had decreased.

"This issue is multifaceted — we need to consider the number of AP courses being offered at each school, how we encourage students to take those courses, and whether the students in these courses are taking advantage of the opportunity to take AP and IB tests," Caulk said in a statement. "We need to ensure that we have a strategy for increasing access for all students to our most rigorous course offerings."