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Wednesday, April 17, 2019

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More Louisiana students than ever before earn college credits

More Louisiana students than ever before earn college credits

BATON ROUGE, La. -- More Louisiana high school students than ever before earned college-credit qualifying scores on Advanced Placement (AP) exams in 2018, according to data released last week by the Louisiana Department of Education.

This year 7,330 students earned AP credit, up 11 percent from 6,519 a year ago and 2,747 in 2012. African-American students saw particularly dramatic gains, with 884 African-American students earning qualifying scores, a jump of nearly 13 percent since 2017 and of 236 percent since 2012.

AP offers college-level curricula in 38 subject areas to high school students that culminate in a college-level AP exam recognized by colleges and universities nationwide. Students who earn a score of 3,4, or 5 are eligible for college credit at all Louisiana higher education institutions.

Percentages were lower in both Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes.

Eighty-eight of the 514 students who took the AP exams, 17.1 percent, scored high enough to receive college credit after the 2017-18 school year. That’s down from 21.1 percent a year earlier, when 148 of 701 students taking the test earned college credit.

Seven times as many parish students took the test this year compared to the 74 who did in 2012. That year, 28, or 32.4 percent, of those students scored high enough to earn college credit.

In Lafourche, 51 of the 199 students who took the test last year earned college credit, 25.6 percent. That’s up from 12.2 percent last year, when 23 of 189 students did the same.

Lafourche posted one of the highest percentage increases in the state this year, but its score last year was lower than most parishes.

Louisiana has pushed to increase the number of students taking the AP exams as well as the percentage of students who score high enough to receive college credit.

However, the state is second worst in the nation for the percentage of all public high school students receiving college credit, including those who don’t take the test. The College Board, which administers the AP exam, puts Louisiana’s figure at 8.5 percent, far below the national average of 22.8 percent. Only Mississippi, at 6.5 percent, fared worse.

Nonetheless, Louisiana officials said they are heartened by the increased number of students receiving college credit statewide via the tests.

"For six consecutive years, Louisiana has increased AP participation and performance. Students have mastered college-level coursework, earned credit at virtually any institution in the nation and saved millions of dollars along the way," said State Superintendent John White. “The stories of individual schools, teachers, and students are the real story behind this progress."

The results released come on the heels of a multi-year statewide push to expand access to early college courses. As the result of actions taken in recent years:

- All Louisiana colleges now grant credit for AP test credits;

- Students passing AP courses receive additional weight in the calculation of the grade-point average needed for the the Taylor Opportunity Program (TOPS) for Students, the state's premier scholarship program;

- The rating system for high schools rewards schools achieving at high levels in AP courses and tests; and

- As part of its plan to comply with the Every Student Succeeds Act, Louisiana authorized school systems to utilize federal funding to provide their students with equitable access to high-value academic course offerings and reimbursement options for exam fees.

"We are delighted to see these results. Continued gains in successful AP participation gives high school students an early start to college and reinforces a critical college-going culture," said Louisiana Commissioner of Higher Education Kim Hunter Reed. "Exposing more students to post-secondary education, whether through AP or other pre-college courses, is an effective way to expand access and opportunity here in Louisiana."