News

For Immediate Release
February 20, 2013

Record number of Illinois graduates take AP Exams and post successful scores


Low-income and minority performance continues to show significant gains, moving Illinois closer to AP equity and excellence among all students

SPRINGFIELD –The number of Illinois graduates who take AP exams during high school has more than doubled in the last decade, with low-income and minority students continuing to make record gains toward closing the achievement gap on these rigorous tests. In 2012, more than 26,400 graduates scored a 3 or higher on an AP exam, with 17.6 percent of these students coming from low-income backgrounds, according to the 9th Annual AP Report to the Nation.

“The AP program complements our state’s focus on college and career readiness by giving students the opportunity to earn college credits while still in high school and acquire the knowledge and problem-solving skills necessary to succeed in challenging postsecondary course work,” said State Superintendent Christopher A. Koch. “Increased participation and significant achievement gains by students of all backgrounds show that our efforts are paying off.”

AP exams measure a student’s content mastery of college-level studies in specific academic disciplines. A total of 40,653 graduates took at least one AP exam during high school in 2012 compared to 18,833 in 2002.

Illinois ranks 16th in the nation for the percentage of 2012 graduates – 19.9 percent – who scored at least a 3 on an AP exam during their high school career. The national average is 19.5 percent. Additionally, the percentage of Illinois graduates who reached that benchmark grew by 8.2 percentage points from 11.7 percent in 2002, putting Illinois among the top 20 states that had a larger percentage point change over time than the national average. The College Board and the American Council on Education (ACE) recommend that colleges and universities award credit for AP scores of 3 and higher on any AP exam.

Low-income students post big gains

Illinois’ traditionally underserved public high school graduates also continued to make strides in achieving equity on AP exams. Low-income students comprised 28.9 percent of graduates who took an AP exam during high school in 2012 compared to only 17.6 percent in 2007. Meanwhile, the number of low-income graduates scoring a 3 or higher nearly tripled from 1,719 or 9.1 percent in 2007 to 4,645 or 17.6 percent in 2012. Research shows that minority and low-income students who earn at least a 3 on an AP exam are more likely than their peers to earn higher degrees in college and a college degree within five years of enrolling.

Other highlights regarding the state’s progress toward achieving equity and excellence for its students include:

Illinois school districts are currently implementing the internationally-benchmarked Common Core State Standards in English Language Arts and mathematics, which were adopted by the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) in 2010 and emphasize college and career readiness. ISBE recently raised the performance levels of the Illinois Standards Achievement Test (ISAT) for elementary and middle school students to align with the more rigorous Common Core standards. The new performance levels will also pave the way for the higher expectations of a new assessment system, the Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) assessment, which is scheduled to debut in 2014-2015.

Other highlights of the 9th annual AP Report to the Nation include:

Illinois Public Schools – Advanced Placement Participation by District: High School Class of 2012 - http://www.isbe.net/news/2013/pdf/ap-participation.pdf

Illinois Public Schools – Advanced Placement Performance by District: High School Class of 2012 - http://www.isbe.net/news/2013/pdf/ap-success.pdf

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