More Florida students are taking — and passing — AP tests, according to preliminary results released Tuesday by the Florida Department of Education.
In 2009, for the fourth year in a row, Florida had the biggest one-year increase among all states in the number of students taking rigorous advanced placement exams, the Education Department said. The Sunshine State also had the second biggest increase in the number of tests scored at 3 or higher on the AP's 1-5 scale.
The official report from the College Board, which administers the AP program, won't be released until February. And the report did not include a state-by-state breakdown or district-by-district information.
Florida's success with AP isn't new news. But the continued push to get more students onto the AP track continues to generate heated debate. Some are concerned that average or low-performing students are being urged into AP classes, potentially watering down the rigorous curriculum.
In raw numbers, 131,818 high school students took at least one AP exam in 2009, up from 117,698 in 2008, the department says. And 100,356 tests (many students take multiple tests) were scored at 3 or better — a passage rate of 42.9 percent, up from 42 percent.
The rate peaked at 55.6 percent in 2000, when about 38,000 students took an AP test. Since 1999, the number of Florida students taking the exams — considered a key predictor of success in college — has nearly quadrupled, while the number of tests scored at 3 or higher has more than tripled.
SAT scores mixed, as state trails nationally
Average SAT scores for Florida's high school graduates inched up one point in reading and one point in math in 2009, and dipped one point in writing, according to a report Tuesday from the College Board.
The slight increase comes as the number of students taking the test, also considered by many a key predictor of success in college, rose from 98,578 to 100,179.
On the glass-half-empty side: Florida students continue to trail their peers nationally. The average composite score nationally was 1509. In Florida, it was 1475.
On the glass-half-full side: A greater percentage of Florida students (58 percent of its graduates) are taking the SAT than nationally (46 percent). And Florida's Hispanic and black students are doing better than their peers in reading and math.
"Florida's students continue to respond to higher academic expectations by challenging themselves and making significant learning gains," Gov. Charlie Crist said in a written statement. "In this way, our schools and teachers are ensuring a strong learning environment for all Florida students."