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Maryland AP scores top nation again; Virginia at #3

Local,Education,Lisa Gartner

D.C. only 'state' to see drop over 10 years

Maryland students ranked first in the nation on their Advanced Placement exams for the fourth straight year, with 27.9 percent of last year's graduates passing at least one of the college-level tests.

Virginia remained at third, behind New York, with 25.6 percent of seniors passing an AP exam, while the District was the only "state" in the nation to see its students' performance drop over the last 10 years, according to the College Board, the nonprofit that administers the tests.

Passing grades
Public-school graduates passing at least one Advanced Placement exam during high school.
D.C.6.8% (190)7.1% (226)6.9% (285)6.6% (276)
Maryland14.8% (7,309)21.6% (12,082)26.4% (15,167)27.9% (15,610)
Virginia16.5% (10,900)19.7% (14,751)23.7% (19,162)25.6% (20,542)
Nation10.8% (277,507)13.9% (402,610)16.8% (508,378)18.1% (540,619)
Source: College Board

Maryland has made the most progress of any state since 2001, with a 13.1 percentage point jump in the number of students passing at least one college-level exam. The state's success was propped up by Montgomery County Public Schools, the largest school system in Maryland, where 50 percent of graduates passed an AP test during high school. Fairfax County Public Schools similarly bolstered Virginia.

In the District, only 6.6 percent of students who graduated last year -- which is roughly half of the class of 2011 -- passed at least one AP exam. That puts the District above only Louisiana and Mississippi.

A spokesman for the D.C. Office of the State Superintendent for Education, which oversees D.C. Public Schools and the city's charter schools, said the District's report did not include charter school students, and the city has "requested for the report to be re-run and to include charters."

DCPS students' poor performance may not surprise those familiar with the troubled school system, which has focused heavily on reforms in the last five years. But what's perplexing is that 0.2 percent fewer students are passing the tests than they were in 2001, with scores fluctuating year-to-year. Every other state has seen improvement, and nearly all of them with a steady upward climb, said Trevor Packer, the College Board's vice president for Advanced Placement.

"We don't know why that is with D.C. We'd be very curious to find out," Packer told The Washington Examiner.

DCPS spokeswoman Melissa Salmanowitz pointed to the increase in the number of District students taking AP tests: 1,084 in 2011, more than the double the 467 test-takers in 2001. The growth was typical of most states and the nation, as well.

"We obviously have a challenge with our overall scores, but we're making progress and we're proud of what our AP students are accomplishing," Salmanowitz said.

On the other end of the spectrum, Montgomery County officials touted an increase in both participation and performance on the 2011 AP exams.

"I am very proud of how MCPS students are performing on AP exams and the role they have played in making Maryland a national leader in AP," Superintendent Joshua Starr said.

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