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Missouri education commissioner urges more students to take advanced placement courses

Updated: 2013-09-26T04:29:09Z

By JOE ROBERTSON

The Kansas City Star

More Missouri high school students need to take advanced placement courses and pass the tests to earn college credit, state Education Commissioner Chris Nicastro said Wednesday.

Missouri ranks 48th out of 50 states and the District of Columbia in the percentage of students in the class of 2012 who scored a 3 or higher on an AP exam. The tests are scored on a scale of 1 to 5, with a score of 3 or better usually earning a student college credit.

Kansas fared little better, tied for 41st in the nation.

The rigorous AP courses and the advantages of college credit fit well with the missions in both states and the nation to prepare students for college or a career in a competitive global market.

“AP classes are one way schools can offer students experience with the kinds of courses they will encounter in college and the increasingly higher expectations of the workplace,” Nicastro said.

Both states have been increasing the number of students in AP programs, and they also have more students taking dual-credit courses at community colleges while in high school.

The number of students taking college-credit courses in high school is not clear, but Kansas Deputy Commissioner Dale Dennis said he believed it draws away many students who might otherwise take AP courses and tests.

Both paths are giving students a head start on college, he said.

The College Board, which administers the AP program, released its report earlier this year showing that 19.5 percent of the nation’s graduating class in 2012 earned a passing score on at least one AP exam. That percentage has increased steadily since 2002, when 11.6 percent of the graduating class earned a passing score.

Over the same decade, Missouri saw its percentage of students passing an AP test grow from 4.7 percent to 9.6 percent. Kansas’ rate grew from 5.5 percent to 11.1 percent.

Nationwide, 56.8 percent of the students who took AP tests scored 3 or better, compared to 62.7 percent for Missouri and 60.5 percent for Kansas.

The College Board’s analysis raised concerns that many students nationwide — particularly minorities — are denying themselves a chance at earning college credit out of high school.

The College Board’s website says each AP test costs $89.

The board, based on student performance in other tests, estimates that 60 percent of all students who have a high potential to pass AP tests did not participate in the program. That figure rose to 70 percent among black and Hispanic students.

To reach Joe Robertson, call 816-234-4789 or send email to jrobertson@kcstar.com.

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