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More Indiana students taking AP exams, but half aren’t passing them

March 8, 2017

In every school district in Marion County, students are taking the opportunity to sign up for high school Advanced Placement courses that can earn them college credit.

But while districts saw anywhere from 20 percent to more than 30 percent of students take the classes and associated tests, only about half of the students who take them are actually passing the exams, which means getting a score of three, four or five.

Statewide, 36 percent of Indiana students who graduated in 2016 took an AP test in high school. But only 18.1 percent of Indiana students who graduated in 2016 took an AP test in high school and passed it. That’s compared to the national average of 21.9 percent.

Tricia Renner, a College Board representative who addressed the Indiana State Board of Education on Thursday, said students who pass AP exams have better academic outcomes later on. They’re more likely to have higher GPAs in college, graduate on time and complete their degrees.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jennifer McCormick said she wants to increase the state’s focus on AP and not just celebrate students who do well. She wants to make sure schools that lack access to the classes and teachers who want to become qualified to teach them get the support they need, too.

“I’m very pleased with where Indiana is,” McCormick said. “Can we grow? Absolutely. But I think we’re on the right track.”

The data presented Thursday covers 2016 graduates who took at least one AP exam over the course of their four years in school. Rates for districts were given in ranges instead of exact percentages.

Here’s how it breaks down by local districts:

Pike Township: 30 percent or more took an exam; 10 percent to 19 percent passed.

Washington Township: 30 percent or more took an exam; 20 percent to 29 percent passed.

Warren Township: 20 percent to 29 percent took an exam; 1 percent to 9 percent passed.

Wayne Township: 30 percent or more took an exam; 10 percent to 19 percent passed.

Lawrence Township: 30 percent or more took an exam; 10 percent to 19 percent passed.

Perry Township: 30 percent or more took an exam; 10 percent to 19 percent passed.

Franklin Township: 30 percent or more took an exam; 30 percent or more passed.

Decatur Township: 20 percent to 29 percent took an exam; 10 percent to 19 percent passed.

Beech Grove: 20 percent to 29 percent took an exam; 10 percent to 19 percent passed.

Speedway: 30 percent or more took an exam; 10 percent to 19 percent passed.

Indianapolis Public Schools: 30 percent or more took an exam; 1 percent to 9 percent passed.

But, Indiana is improving. In the past 10 years, the state has seen an uptick in the number of students who pass AP exams, going from 9.2 percent passing in 2006 to 18.1 percent in 2016.

And while a few Marion County districts are struggling to get students to pass, 26 districts across the state have fewer than 1 percent of students passing AP exams, and none of those are in Indianapolis.

You can find the data on AP school district participation here and test passing rates here.

Chalkbeat is a not-for-profit news site covering educational change in public schools.

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