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More of New Jersey’s high school class of 2017 passed Advanced Placement tests than prior classes, new data from the College Board and the state Department of Education show.
According to the College Board, which administers AP exams that can lead to students earning college credit, 28 percent of high school seniors who graduated last spring received a score of 3 or higher – considered passing – on one or more AP tests. That was 1.5 percentage points higher than the prior class.
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Growing in popularity
AP classes and testing have become more popular in New Jersey in recent years, as a way to better prepare students for advanced classes in college and as a way for students to essentially test out of having to take certain college courses, because they earn college credit by taking a high school-administered test.
“This means more schools are helping make college more affordable to more students,” said Lamont Repollet, the state’s acting education commissioner.
Individual colleges determine what grade on an AP test they consider passing – typically at least a 3 out of a possible 5. They also have the discretion over how they accept the scores, typically either granting a student college credit for the course for which they passed an AP exam or giving the student credit for other electives.
The DOE recently reported data about AP classes and tests and the International Baccalaureate program, which includes rigorous classes and testing that can also lead to students earning college credits, on both school-level and district-level performance reports. The report cards for districts were prepared for the first time this year and released earlier this week. The school level report cards were posted last month.
According to the data, more than four in 10 New Jersey high school 11th and 12th graders took one or more AP or IB classes in 2016-2017. Not all those who take a class go on to take the standardized test associated with it – 34.5 percent of students took at least one test – although students can also take an AP test without having a class. The state also provided data showing that 17.3 percent of upperclassmen took dual-enrollment classes, which allow them to earn college credit for courses taken while in high school.
While touting the 28 percent AP-passing rate, state education officials noted that not all the news is good. Economically disadvantaged students remain underrepresented in advanced programs. The DOE reported that 36.8 percent of all students in New Jersey fall into that category because they are eligible for free and reduced-price lunch. Of those students, just 16.4 percent took an AP exam and 12 percent passed.
Individual district results varied widely, often depending on a district’s wealth or selectivity in the case of county vocational-technical districts that operate magnet schools popular with high-achieving students.
In only one district, the Bergen County Technical Schools District that has a number of academies for high-performing students, did all students pass at least one AP or IB exam. Princeton Regional and the School District of the Chathams were the only other districts where at least three-quarters of those tested passed an advanced exam. In 57 districts, less than 10 percent of upperclass students passed an AP or IB test.
Six districts, four charters and the vocational districts in Somerset and Cape May counties, reported no AP or IB classes. Four others, three charters and the Elizabeth public school district, had every student taking at least one advanced class, the DOE district performance reports showed. In six districts, all students took at least one AP or IB test, while in only one – Union County TEAMS Charter School – did no students test.
Data on dual enrollment courses, which require an agreement between a high school and college, show even greater variations among districts. Ten districts throughout the state reported all upperclassmen took at least one dual-enrollment class. In a majority of districts, 184, no students took such classes.
Results are not always available for all districts for one or more category of information. The DOE does not report results for small numbers of students to protect student privacy.
The data also counts the numbers of students enrolled in specific AP classes and taking tests. The most popular AP courses in New Jersey last year were Calculus, English Language and Composition, English Literature and Composition, Psychology, and U.S. History. A total of 35 AP classes are available.
To see advanced class and testing results by district, click on the map. To get information for a specific school, use the searchable database.