L.A. Unified saw a 62% increase from seven years ago in the number of AP tests taken by students, pass rate stays static at 39% to 42%
by Sara Hayden, L.A. Times | http://lat.ms/Vd0qEU
Students listen to Advanced Placement teacher Daniel Jocz lecture on 19th century American history during a class at the Downtown Magnet High School in Los Angeles. (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)
The number of Advanced Placement exams taken in the Los Angeles Unified School District hit an all-time high during the 2013-14 school year. Students took 48,000 AP tests across the district, up 62% from seven years ago, the district announced.
High school students take the rigorous exams for an extra academic challenge and, if they pass, to receive college credit or to be placed in a more advanced course.
Supt. John Deasy said he was proud of the results in Los Angeles Unified, the second-largest school system in the nation, because the courses help students become ready for college or work.
The number of AP course offerings in the district increased by more than 12,000, a 34% increase from the 2006-07 school year.
Michael Lovelady, an advanced placement coordinator for L.A. Unified, attributes greater AP participation to opening enrollment to all students in 2010, and a fee waiver program that covers the bulk of exam costs for low-income students. He also pointed to training and support for AP teachers, partnerships with programs that prepare students for an AP track and other initiatives.
Despite a districtwide enrollment decline since 2006-07 of 13% — about 23,000 students — 7,000 more students have pursued AP courses, a bump of 33%.
The number of minority students taking the tests also jumped. This year, 30,000 Latino students took the exams, up 89% from 16,000 in 2006-07. The number of African American students increased 29% during the same time period to 2,290 from 1,770.
Participation in AP courses and exams has increased in other metropolitan school districts as well. Last year, students took 35,590 tests in the New York City Department of Education, which serves about 1 million students, compared with 17,165 students who took at least one AP exam in 2002.
The number of students enrolled in AP courses in Chicago Public Schools increased 45% between 2006-07 and 2012-13.
In Los Angeles, with 39% to 42% of students achieving a passing score, the district's pass rate has been stable since 2006-07.
Van Nuys High School had the highest rate of students passing exams this year at 71.6%.
"There's a very large academic culture here on campus," said Henry Song, the school's magnet coordinator. "There's no magic secret. It's having teachers dedicated to the [AP] program and encouraging the students."
In 2013, California ranked sixth in the U.S. for the number of high school graduates achieving a passing score or higher, outpacing the national average by nearly 7%.
The nonprofit College Board administers the AP tests. They are scored on a numerical scale from 1 to 5 with 3 considered the minimum passing score.