2001 Results of Advanced Placement Tests

December 6, 2001
Results of the spring 2001 Advanced Placement (AP) tests released recently by Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) show a large increase in participation with only a slight decline in performance level.

Over the past three years, from 1998 to 2001, the number of AP tests taken by MCPS students increased 75 percent (6,124 to 10,689), and the number of students taking AP tests increased 59 percent (3,525 to 5,591). The average score on the 5-point scale went from 3.59 in 1998 to 3.45 in 2001.

MCPS' participation increase and decline in scores were compatible with national trends, although stronger in both areas. Nationally, the number of students taking AP tests increased from 33 to 39 percent. The accompanying national decline in average scores was from 3.02 to 2.95. The decline, while not desirable, was expected because AP tests are aimed at the top high school students; as the group becomes larger, it tends to include a wider range of academic talent.

MCPS students' increased participation in AP courses was seen across subject areas but was largest in psychology (from 713 to 1,425), English language and composition (768 to 1,285) and English literature and composition (683 to 1,195).

Racial/ethnic groups

Countywide gains in participation also were seen for each racial/ethnic group. African American and Hispanic students showed the largest proportional gains. The number of African American students taking the AP test almost doubled from 1998 to 2001. However, when the percentage of students enrolled was considered, Asian American and white students had larger increases. In 2002, 47 percent of Asian American students took at least one AP test, an increase of 13 percentage points from 1998. White students had an increase of 14 percentage points (28 to 42 percent). There was a 5 percentage point increase from 1998 for African American (7 to 12 percent) and Hispanic (10 to 15 percent) students taking AP tests.

All racial/ethnic groups showed a decline in performance over the same period. Matching increased participation rates, declines were steepest for African American and Hispanic students, with average scores for these groups down more than .4 of a point. Still, MCPS racial/ethnic groups averaged at least .4 of a point higher than these groups nationally in 2001.
Overall, 78 percent of MCPS students taking AP exams scored 3 or higher on the tests in 2001. This includes 81 percent of white, 78 percent of Asian American, 68 percent of Hispanic and 53 percent of African American students.

Special services

Students receiving special services also participated in AP tests. Of students tested, 36 enrolled in English for Speakers of Other Languages had average scores of 3.91, almost a half point above the county average. The other groups averaged below the overall county, with 167 students receiving Free and Reduced-price Meals averaging 3.13 and 100 students with Individualized Education Programs averaging 3.14.

Results by schools

Countywide, increases in participation were seen in all 21 high schools that were open in 1998, and the two high schools opened since then-James Hubert Blake and Northwest-had large participation increases from 2000. At four high schools, the number of students taking AP tests at least doubled from 1998: John F. Kennedy (69 to 203 students), Gaithersburg (64 to 163 students), Albert Einstein (78 to 169 students) and Damascus (81 to 162 students).

In addition, seven high schools reversed the usual trend of declining average score with increasing participation. Bethesda-Chevy Chase, Montgomery Blair, Col. Zadok Magruder, Richard Montgomery, Rockville, Seneca Valley and Sherwood high schools all increased both their average score and participation from 1998.

The largest average score gain among these seven was Rockville High School, with .19 of a point. Rockville also had a 91 percent increase in participation, the largest of any school with an increase in average score.

The full report is available on the MCPS Web Site at the link indicated below.

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