Thirty percent of Florida’s Class of 2014 found success on at least one AP exam, moving Florida ahead of high-flying Massachusetts and in a tie with Virginia, according to results recently released to states by the College Board, the nonprofit that oversees the AP program.
The national success rate was 21.6 percent.
Florida’s performance is especially noteworthy given its demographics. In fact, no state has a bigger disconnect between AP results and rate of low-income kids. (See chart at the end of this post.)
Florida ranks No. 44 in the percentage of students eligible for free- and reduced-price lunch, at 57.6 percent, according to the most recent federal figures. Massachusetts ranks No. 3, with 35.1 percent; Connecticut No. 5, with 35.7 percent; and Virginia No. 9, with 39.2 percent. Maryland comes in at No. 17, with 41.8 percent.
Despite its challenges, Florida continues to be a pace-setter in AP progress, too, coming in at No. 2 in improved performance over the past decade. Between 2004 and 2014, the percentage of graduating seniors in Florida passing at least one AP exam rose 13.7 percentage points, far surpassing the national rise of 8.9 points. Only Connecticut improved more.
The Florida story isn’t happenstance. In 2000, the state forged a partnership with the College Board to widen the doors of access to low-income and minority students, who had too often been shut out of AP classrooms. At the same time, it better identified potential AP students, better grounded them for tougher courses and better prepared AP teachers for more diverse classrooms.
Success skyrocketed. In 2000, Florida students passed less than 40,000 AP exams; last year, they passed roughly 150,000.
The trend lines have been especially steep for minority students:
Many consider AP courses to be good prep for college rigor, and AP test performance to be good predictors of college success. The trend lines in Florida, then, suggest tens of thousands of high school graduates each year, many of them low-income students, are better prepared for college than their peers just a decade ago.
In the class of 2004, 21,383 graduates had passed at least one AP exam. In last year’s graduating class, 43,154 had done so.
The latest AP results come as Florida policy makers grapple with the latest chorus of complaints about the state’s accountability regimen for public schools. Could the state’s AP success be tied to its academic gains in early grades? And by extension, to those oft-maligned accountability policies, and/or policies expanding school choice? Some make the case.
This College Board report highlights other interesting tidbits about the latest Florida results. For additional state-by-state context, check out our quickie chart: