GCS Releases 2010-11 Advanced Placement Data

Performance by Guilford County Schools (GCS) high school students held steady on Advanced Placement (AP) exams in 2011, while the number of students taking the courses and exams remained below the district's goal.

A total of 4,366 high school students in grades nine through 12 took the rigorous, college-level AP exams in May 2011. These students completed 8,462 exams - a ratio of almost two per student tested.

The percentage of exams scoring a passing grade of three, four or five saw a slight change upward this year. Of the ninth- through 12th-graders who took the exams, 54.1 percent of the exams earned a passing score, an increase from 53.5 percent last year. The mean AP score for the district was essentially flat at 2.73. Last year the mean score was 2.72.

More than 1,000 of last year's seniors were AP Scholar Award recipients. AP Scholars receive scores of three or higher on at least three AP exams. Of these students, 35 received the highest honor of National AP Scholar by earning a four or higher on eight or more exams.

The GCS Strategic Plan calls for an increase in both the number of juniors and seniors taking Advanced Placement courses and the overall passing rate of those who take the exams. The district's passing rates for all high school students - 54.1 percent - and for juniors and seniors - 53.2 percent - are both above the Strategic Plan goal of 50 percent for the second year in a row.

The participation rate of 65.1 percent of students in grades 11 and 12 remains below the district's goal of 76 percent.

Since the 2009-10 school year, students have been responsible for paying 25 percent of the cost of each AP exam they take, while GCS covers 50 percent of the cost and Businesses for Excellence in Education generously covers the final 25 percent. The College Board and the N.C. Department of Public Instruction cover the exam fees for students who qualify for free or reduced price lunch.

Since there is a fee for taking the AP exams, participation is optional, but GCS continues to encourage students to take the exams in addition to the AP courses.

"We want students engaged in the most rigorous courses and taking advantage of the highest level of education they can have while they are a part of GCS," said Lee Ann Segalla, executive director of Academically Gifted. "We encourage them to take the AP exams because it is a way to rehearse what it is like to take a college exam. Passing scores can also present opportunities for students to earn credit and possibly skip the class in college."

GCS continues to improve AP exam participation across ethnicities. The number of students taking the exams increased among African-American, Asian, American Indian and Hispanic students. The number of white students taking the exams decreased. With the increase in participation, the passing rate decreased for some groups, but the passing rate did increase by 3.4 percentage points for African-Americans.