Fewer PGCPS Students Passed AP Exams in 2015

by Genevieve Demos Kelley

Earlier this year, we ran a story noting the six-year upward trend in Advanced Placement (AP) exam participation among students in Prince George’s County Schools. Between 2008 and 2014, participation in the AP program grew, while passing rates held steady. (Scores of three or higher, out of a possible five points, are considered passing.)

But according to numbers released on the 2015 Maryland Report Card, both the number of exams taken and the overall passing rate have declined slightly this year. Mathematics exams saw the biggest drop with a passing rate of 15.8% and 109 out of 692 exams receiving a passing score in 2015, compared with last year’s passing rate  of 19.1%, with 161 successful exams out of a total of 841 exams taken.

2008 2014 2015
AP Subject Description Exams with Scores 3-5/ Exams Taken
(%Exams w/ Scores 3-5)
Exams with Scores 3-5/ Exams Taken
(%Exams w/ Scores 3-5)
Exams with Scores 3-5/ Exams Taken
(%Exams w/ Scores 3-5)
All Subjects 2150/7829 (27.5%) 2606/9660 (27%) 2443/9452 (25.8%)
All Fine Arts 55/120 (45.8%) 130/267 (48.7%) 95/267 (35.6%)
All English Language Arts 593/2313 (25.6%) 623/2737 (22.8%) 625/2684 (23.3%)
All Foreign Language 191/301 (63.5%) 227/308  (73.7%) 183/251 (72.9%)
All Mathematics 180/753 (23.9%) 161/841  (19.1%) 109/692 (15.8%)
All Science 682/2341 (29.1%) 775/2791 (27.8%) 778/2616 (29.7%)
All Social Studies 449/2001 (22.4%) 690/2716 (25.4%) 618/2880 (21.5%)

Source: Maryland Report Card

These numbers don’t look good, but it’s not all bad news. Let’s take a closer look at the data and put the numbers in context:

  • While still far below national and state averages, the average SAT score on the mathematics section is up slightly for Prince George’s County students — 397 in 2015, compared with 394 in 2014 . The average ACT math score has held steady at 18 since 2010, when it increased by one point from the previous year.
  • Though overall K-12 enrollment in Prince George’s County Public Schools has been increasing since 2013 — and is currently at a six-year high — the number of high school students dipped in 2014 and was still lower in 2015 than in 2013. High school enrollment was 35,590 in 2013, 34,498 in 2014, and 35,271 in 2015. These numbers may help to put the decline in AP exam participation into context.
  • The percentage of all AP exams taken in the state of Maryland that scored a passing grade was 61% in 2014 and remain unchanged in 2015. The mathematics passing rate was down slightly, from 66.7% in 2014 to 66.1% in 2015. If we exclude Prince George’s County students, then the passing rate for AP mathematics exams among Maryland students was 69.3% in 2014 and 68.4% in 2015.
  • The number of exams taken in the state of Maryland dropped by about a percentage point in 2015, after years of growth. (The number of AP exams taken had increased every year since 2008, the earliest year for which data is available at the Maryland Report Card.) But between 2008 and 2014, even as the number of  students taking AP exams increased, high school enrollment in Maryland was shrinking, a trend that continued into 2015.
  • One high school in Prince George’s County produces the majority of successful AP mathematics and science exams. Eleanor Roosevelt High School, which has a STEM specialty program, accounts for 44.5% of all exams receiving a passing score (1,806 out of 2,443) and 19.1% of all exams taken. Moreoever, 62.4% of the county’s passing scores in AP mathematics come from Eleanor Roosevelt High, as do 63.1% of the county’s successful exams in science. But the school did see a modest decline this year in its overall AP exam passing rate, from 63.3% in 2014 to 60.3% in 2015. The mathematics passing rate had the largest decline, dropping from 53.4% in2014 to 49.5% in 2015.
  • AP foreign language continues to be a bright spot for the county, with 72.9% of exams receiving a passing score. That passing rate that is far above that of any other subject and within a stone’s throw of the statewide passing rate for AP foreign language, 85.8%.

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