DES MOINES, Iowa — Iowa's high school seniors are lagging behind students in other states when it comes to getting passing scores on Advanced Placement exams, according to a new report released Tuesday by the College Board.
According to the report, 11.1 percent of Iowa's public high school graduates scored a 3 or higher on an AP exam in 2013. These exams offer a way to earn college credit while still in high school and a 3 is the grade many colleges and universities require for credit. On average nationally, 20.1 percent of the class of 2013 scored a 3 or higher an AP exam last year.
The governor's special assistant for education, Linda Fandel, says one reason for the lower performance may be that many Iowa high school students opt to take community college courses to earn college credits. She said the state wants to improve participation on college credit exams and that the state provides funding to a University of Iowa program that provides online AP courses, which can help students in districts that don't offer AP classes.
"The governor wants all students to graduate from high school and college career-ready, so we'd like to see more students taking AP online classes as well as dual-credit classes," Fandel said. "Not only does it help better prepare students for college or career training, it also saves them money in college because they get credit for courses that they took in high school."
A total of 5,707 graduates took AP exams in 2013 in Iowa, with 3,551 scoring a 3 or higher on an exam. Those numbers have steadily risen since 2003, when 2,993 graduates took the tests and 2,041 scored a 3 or higher on an exam. Tests dealing with history and social sciences had the highest number of graduates scoring a 3 or higher last year.
AP exam participation has doubled nationally over the past decade. The class of 2013 took 3.2 million AP exams, according to the report.
Advanced Placement exams, which started in the 1950s, offer a way for students to earn college credit while still in high school and are offered in 34 different subjects. The classes are designed to be rigorous and are graded in a uniform way, meaning students' grades from one school can be matched up against those from another. Proponents say they help transition students to college and allow graduates to stand out in the college admission process.
In Iowa, about 56 percent of the 348 school districts had AP course enrollment in the 2012-2013 school year, according to state data. Nearly 98 percent of districts have dual enrollment programs with community colleges.