Record Number Of Arizona High School Students Complete College Courses

By Claire Caulfield
Published: Monday, February 26, 2018 - 3:14pm
Updated: Tuesday, February 27, 2018 - 6:19am
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More high school students are taking — and excelling — in college courses than ever before. Recently-released data from the College Board shows the class of 2017 took twice as many advanced-placement (AP) courses as students in the class of 2007.

These AP courses are college-level classes available to high school students. A student can receive college credit for their work if they pass an AP test — which is given in each subject at the end of the school year.

The number of Arizona students who received a passing grade on AP tests has increased eight points in the past decade, from 9.6 percent in 2007 to 16.4 percent in 2017. However, it is still lower than the national average of 22.8 percent.

“Arizona is mirroring national trends,”Scott Hill, vice president of the Western Regional Office for the College Board said. “But what were seeing specifically is a number of state level and local district efforts that we think are going to be keys to even more dramatically accelerate opportunities for students.”

When the district covers AP test fees, like in the Glendale Unified School District, this removes financial stresses some students may feel when signing up for an AP course, Hill said. In 2016, a student would pay $94 for each AP test.

The Tempe Union School District offers the pre-SAT to every freshman, sophomore and junior free-of-cost. Hill said this identifies college-readiness in students and encourages them to think about education options beyond graduation, which may lead them to enroll in AP courses.

“Arizona has actually been a really impressive state in terms of making sure there are more opportunities for all students,” Hill said. “The number of Latino students is catching up very dramatically to the number of white students.”

Research shows just taking an AP course in high school, regardless of whether the minority or low-income student passes the end-of-year test, leads to higher college graduation rates.

Also, minorities from low-income homes who take at least one AP course earn higher college GPAs and have higher college retention rates, a 2014 College Board report shows.

Hill said he hopes more districts will start covering AP exam fees for low-income students as part of their normal college-preparedness curriculum.

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