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D.C. Lags Behind Maryland, Virginia In AP Pass Rates

Kaya Henderson notes progress in AP access

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Students can get college credits for passing scores on the Advanced Placement exams.
Cory Doctorow: http://www.flickr.com/photos/37996580417@N01/2487883894/
Students can get college credits for passing scores on the Advanced Placement exams.

More students across the Washington Metro region are taking and passing the Advanced Placement or AP exams.

Once again, Maryland had the highest percentage of graduating seniors in 2013 passing an AP exam during their high school years at almost 30 percent. Virginia was ranked number three at 28 percent. And while D.C. was ranked 33rd, Trevor Packer with the College Board says it has other bragging points.

"Washington D.C. for the first time has become number one in the country for access to AP courses — 55.7 percent of D.C. Public School students took an AP course or exam and that is the broadest access to AP courses anywhere in the country," Packer says.

Packer says that among those students that passed AP exams in D.C., a third are African-American.

"There is no state or district in the U.S. that has a higher proportion of AP students who are African-American," Packer says.

In the District, just 14 percent of graduating seniors in 2013 passed an AP exam during their high school years. So does D.C.'s push to get more students to take AP exams demoralize them when they don t pass? DCPS Chancellor Kaya Henderson says no.

"Prior to our push to get more students in AP, children — especially low income and children of color — weren't even getting a chance to try," Henderson says. "And for a lot of young people, just having a teacher believing enough to say 'you can do this' is enough to have a transformative effective. And we have to teach our young people even if they can't conquer an obstacle the first time they have to keep trying."

Henderson says DCPS is also offering several supports to increase the number of students passing. Apart frp, increased professional development for teachers, since 2010, all traditional public schools offer at least four AP courses and the District pays the exam fees.

This report is part of American Graduate - Let's Make It Happen! — a public media initiative to address the drop out crisis, supported by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

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