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Utah students rank fifth in nation for AP exam success

By Ashtyn Asay - Daily Herald | Apr 6, 2022

Alex Brandon, Associated Press

In this photo taken Jan. 17, 2016, a student looks at questions during a college test preparation class at Holton Arms School in Bethesda, Md.

According to new data released by College Board, Utah students rank fifth in the nation for success on Advanced Placement course exams.

Utah’s public school class of 2021 took 39,500 AP exams during their secondary school years, earning college credit — with a passing score of 3, 4 or 5 — 67.7% of the time according to the College Board AP Cohort Data Report. This tied Utah with Pennsylvania in terms of success on AP exams.

Utah and Pennsylvania fell behind South Dakota (68.7%), New Hampshire (68.6%), New Jersey (68.3%) and Connecticut (68.1%).

“We are pleased to see our students stretching themselves academically and succeeding,” Sydnee Dickson, state superintendent of public instruction, said in a press release.

In addition to Utah students’ success in AP testing, the data also revealed that of the 44,660 members of Utah’s class of 2021, 14,361 took the AP exams and 10,155, or 22.7%, earned college credit through AP while still in high school, a steady increase from the 22.1% of Utah students in 2016. The number of student both taking and passing the tests has increased steadily for the last decade.

Representatives of Alpine School District believe that their students’ success in the AP exams demonstrates their commitment to education even in the face of adversity.

“Following two challenging years, we are pleased with the performance of our high school students who participated in AP exams and were part of Utah’s ranking of fifth in the nation for success,” said David Stephenson, the executive director of external relations and communications for Alpine School District. “This demonstrates the resolve of our students and families as we work together to ensure students continue to progress academically.”

Utah’s high national rank and increase in AP success may have seemed unlikely in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has certainly disrupted the public school system in recent years.

“Observed declines in participation and performance are commonly attributed to the need for schools to close or to shift to remote learning. They occur, overall, in relation to the amount of in-person learning that was disrupted,” read the College Board report.

Recent legislation could impact Utah’s AP exam results moving forward. House Bill 390, Early college and concurrent enrollment program amendments, sponsored by Rep. V. Lowry Snow, allows for local education agencies to prioritize funding for concurrent enrollment programs for certain students.

“We look forward to next year’s results in light of the just passed House Bill 390 which offers assistance to students who are struggling financially to take AP exams and enroll in early college and concurrent enrollment programs,” said Dickson.

Also included by the state is a list of the most popular AP classes for high school students. More Utah high schoolers took AP English, 4,809, than any other class with 4,554 taking AP Human Geography. The highest pass rate was in AP Statistics where 80.7% of the 1,882 passed while the lowest was in U.S. History — 62.7% of the 4,191 students received a 3, 4 or 5.

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