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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Florida No. 5 in graduates passing AP exams



Florida ranks No. 5 nationally in the percentage of high school graduates in 2009 who passed at least one college-caliber Advanced Placement exam, according to the latest annual report by the group that oversees the AP program.

With a 21.3 percent rate, Florida moves up from No. 10 last year (actually, it was No. 11 in last year's report, but revisions now put it at No. 10). And, according to the College Board, it had the biggest single-year increase of any state.

Florida now ranks behind Maryland (No. 1 with a 24.8 percent), New York, Virginia and Massachusetts and ahead of Connecticut, California, Colorado and Vermont. Pretty good company, no?

The national rate moved from 15.2 to 15.9 percent.

The report would seem to be at odds with recent stories, including some in the St. Petersburg Times, that highlighted Florida's falling passage rates on AP exams. But it is not. The fact is, it is both true that a falling percentage of Florida high school students are passing exams and a rising percentage of graduating seniors have passed at least one.

The reason: The numbers of students taking AP exams is growing by leaps and bounds.

As much as any other state, Florida has opened the doors of AP access to "average" students who would not have been considered AP material 10 years ago. So while the percentage of tests scored at 3 or above ("passing") is falling (from a high of 55.6 percent in 2000 to 42.9 percent in 2009), the raw numbers of students passing is rising - and so is the percentage graduating with at least one passed AP test.

In 2004, 21,382 graduating seniors in Florida passed an AP exam. In 2009, 30,905 did.

We ask you: Which way of looking at AP scores is more valid?

The College Board report does not include a district-by-district breakdown, but we gathered the passing rate stats from Tampa Bay districts (but not the rates for graduating seniors) last summer. You can find them in this story here.

Gov. Charlie Crist and Education Commissioner Eric J. Smith like what today's numbers show.

[Last modified: Tuesday, May 25, 2010 10:50am]


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