Three Washington-area school districts won recognition for increasing both participation and performance on Advanced Placement exams, while nationally acclaimed Montgomery County and several others were shut out.
Fairfax, Prince George's and Loudoun counties were among the 388 school districts nationwide named to the "AP Achievement List" for providing more students with access to the exams while still maintaining or improving overall scores from 2008.
College Board, the nonprofit that administers the college-credit tests, requires school systems to also improve the performance of their black, Hispanic and American Indian/Alaska Native students, as demonstrated by the percent of minority test-takers who passed at least one exam.
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"We offer at least eight AP courses at all high schools throughout Prince George's County to ensure that all students, regardless of where they live, have the same opportunities to take part in challenging, college-preparatory courses," Superintendent William Hite said.
In Prince George's, 26.3 percent of exams came back with passing scores of "three" or higher, up from 24.6 percent in 2009, while participation increased.
The College Board based its performance measurements on the percentage of students who passed one or more exam, a figure Prince George's school officials did not have. In Fairfax County, the number of students taking at least one exam increased from 14,220 in 2008 to 15,270 in 2010, while the percentage of students passing at least one test rose from 72 to 74 percent.
Loudoun County could not provide its numbers before deadline.
The total number and percentage of test-takers passing at least one exam rose in Montgomery and Arlington counties, too. But both forfeited their honors because minority performance fell, said Trevor Packer, College Board's vice president for the AP program.
In Montgomery, 48.3 percent of black students who took AP exams passed at least one, down from 50.4 percent in 2009 and 49.5 percent in 2008. Hispanic students dropped to 60.1 percent from 60.3 percent in 2009 and 63 percent in 2008.
"Has Montgomery County expand access to more students? They have. Have they maintained their number of students scoring a 'three' or higher? Yes they have, but then we look at minority students, have they maintained or improved passing? They have not," said Packer, noting Montgomery "is still getting great scores."
Arlington County Public Schools does not compile the percentage of test-takers who pass at least one exam, spokesman Frank Bellavia said, but of all exams taken by black students, 34 percent were passing in 2010, down from 35 percent in 2009; 51 percent of exams taken by Hispanic students were passing in 2010, down from 56 percent in 2009.
Meanwhile, Alexandria City Schools' participation dropped slightly, Packer said, and the District failed to improve participation or performance for its students over 2009.
Nationally, 1.8 million students at 17,000 schools around the world took 3.2 million AP exams in 2010. College Board offers more than 30 exams testing knowledge in college-level courses; more than 3,800 colleges and universities award academic credit for high scores on AP exams.