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Crystal Greene, 503-947-5650

February 9, 2011

Despite Challenging Budgets, Oregon Schools Continue to Expand Access & Performance in Advance Placement Programs

SALEM – More Oregon students are taking – and succeeding in – Advanced Placement courses State Schools Superintendent Susan Castillo announced today. Oregon’s results, along with results for the rest of the country, were released today in the College Board’s seventh annual Advanced Placement Report to the Nation. The percent of seniors in Oregon’s 2010 graduating class who achieved an AP exam grade of 3 or higher rose almost a full percent to 14.1%, up from 13.2% the year before. Over the past six years, the percent of Oregon graduates receiving a 3 or higher has risen 5.8%, up from 8.3% for 2004 graduates. An AP exam score of 3 or higher is considered predictive of college success and is recognized by most colleges for credit. In addition to increased performance, more Oregon 2010 graduates left school having completed at least one AP course. 7,584, or 23.5% of 2010 graduates, took at least one AP course during their high school career.

“I am encouraged to see that not only are more Oregon students taking advanced coursework but more students are succeeding in these courses and leaving high school better prepared for college-level work,” said Superintendent of Public Instruction Susan Castillo. “We know that students who take more rigorous content leave our schools more prepared for life after graduation. Despite the challenging budget situations that our schools continue to face, these results show that our schools are making a priority of expanding access to AP and other accelerated courses so that more students have access to coursework that will prepare them for future success.”

The number of minority and low income students taking AP exams in Oregon has continued to increase, but participation rates remain below the proportion these groups comprise in the overall graduating class. The goal is for student participation in AP to mirror the student population as a whole – eliminating the participation and performance gaps which currently exist in Oregon and around the country. However, progress has been made, particularly for low income students. Low income students actually out-performed the cohort as a whole with 16.1% of 2010 low-income AP test takers receiving a 3 or higher compared with 14.1% for 2010 graduates overall – thus eliminating the low income performance gap.

Progress was also made in minority student participation, particularly for African-American students. In Oregon’s 2010 graduating class, 2.3% of students identified themselves as African-American; 2.1% of AP test takers for the graduating class identified themselves as African-American – a significantly smaller participation gap than in previous years. In 2005, for example, 2.1% of the graduates were African-American but only 0.7% had taken an AP exam. The percentage of Oregon AP test takers who were Hispanic rose to 7.9% in 2010 from 4.1% in 2005, but this is still well below the 13.6% of the graduating class that was identified as Hispanic.

“I am proud of the work our schools have done to expand AP access to students who are traditionally underrepresented in these courses,” said Superintendent Castillo. “Our minority and low income students deserve access to all of the richness and rigor these courses can provide. Too many of our students still face an academic achievement gap – both in state assessments and in AP participation and performance. We need to keep focused on expanding access and provide our students the supports they need to succeed in Advanced Placement and other accelerated courses.”

One example of a district focusing on expanding access to AP courses is Reynolds High School which started its AP program just four years ago. This year, Reynolds enrolled over 550 students in AP classes, a third of the juniors and seniors at this majority minority, low-income school. Not only have the overall numbers of students taking – and testing in – AP courses gone up each year, but the school has seen a steady increase in the number of minority and low income students enrolling in AP, thanks to the school’s focus on reaching out to those traditionally underrepresented in accelerated courses. Reynolds has also increased academic supports and counseling for AP students to help ensure their success in these more rigorous classes.

“One thing that we attribute to our success so far is our active recruitment for our pre-AP program of students from diverse populations with academic potential,” said Assistant Principal Alice DeWittie, who supervises the AP program at Reynolds. “It is our goal to remove any barriers to achievement and develop that potential through aligned curriculum and instruction so that they can be successful in AP courses and ultimately in college. One initiative this year in providing access to this level of academic rigor was establishing a support class for 9th grade English language development students in our pre-AP program. This class provides them with academic language support, study skills, and student case management so that they can be successful in high-level coursework and move forward with college dreams and expectations.”

The College Board offers pre-AP Programs such as AP Potential to help boost minority participation. AP Potential uses PSAT data to predict AP performance. In 2009, over 40,000 Oregon students took the PSAT.

The Oregon Department of Education offers supplemental funding to districts to pay for AP and International Baccalaureate (IB) examinations through the AP Test Fee Program through grants from the U.S. Department of Education. Demand for these funds was up sharply this year and the program was used to pay for 3,968 AP exams and 836IB exams, compared to 2,177 AP and 556 IB examinations in 2007-2008.

The full AP Report to the Nation is available online at http://apreport.collegeboard.org/

Susan Castillo, State Superintendent of Public Instruction
Susanne Smith, Communications Director, Telephone (503) 947-5637

Oregon Department of Education News Releases contain information that was originally released to the press as an official release.  Refer to each News Release for the details.

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