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Tuesday, December 6, 2022
FairfaxEducationGood, bad news for Va. students when it comes to AP exams

Good, bad news for Va. students when it comes to AP exams

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Nearly 27 percent of Virginia’s 2021 public-high-school graduates demonstrated college-level achievement on at least one Advanced Placement examination, according to data by the College Board, the nonprofit organization that manages the AP program.

But at the same time, there were some warning signs that things are not entirely rosy when it comes to Virginia students’ participation in the AP program, according to figures detailed by the Virginia Department of Education.

The College Board reported that 26.9 percent of the commonwealth’s 2021 graduating seniors earned a score of 3 or higher on at least one AP test, although that represented a slight decrease from 2020, when 27.9 percent of graduating seniors earned qualifying scores.

(There is no “passing” score on AP exams, which are graded on a 1-to-5 scale. However, many colleges offer credit for students who score 3 or higher on any exam.)


The commonwealth tied for ninth in the nation in AP performance according to the College Board. Nationwide, 22.5 percent of graduating seniors achieved scores of 3 or higher.

“I congratulate all of our 2021 graduates who accepted the challenge of these rigorous courses and examinations,” Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow said in a statement. At the same time, she acknowledged things had been going in the wrong direction for Virginia students.

“We also must recognize that, since 2015, the commonwealth has fallen from third in the nation to ninth as the number of Virginia students taking AP exams has declined and participation in other states has grown,” Balow said. “It is time for a serious discussion about what we can do at both the state and local levels to broaden access to AP courses and remove barriers to participation.”

Disaggregated by student group, the percentages of Virginia 2021 graduates who earned a qualifying score on at least one AP examination during high school were:

• Asian students: 55.9%
• American Indian students: 20%
• Black students: 8.9%
• Hispanic students: 21.9%
• White students: 29.5%

Virginia students earned qualifying scores on 80,893 AP examinations in 2021. According to the College Board, this represents an estimated 242,679 college credits. At an average rate of $471 per college credit hour, the College Board estimates the total potential cost savings for the commonwealth’s students and families was $114,221,725.

The 10 most popular AP courses among Virginia’s 2021 graduating seniors were – in descending order – English Language and Composition, U.S. History, U.S. Government and Politics, World History: Modern, Psychology, English Literature and Composition, Calculus AB, Environmental Science, Biology and Human Geography.

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