AP trends show more students electing to take harder courses

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Nearly half of the Beaufort County students who took Advanced Placement courses last school year scored high enough to earn college credit, according to 2013 data from the College Board.

District officials said they were encouraged by additional data that showed dramatic increases in the numbers of district high school students taking AP courses. For the 2012-13 school year, 1,712 AP exams were taken compared to 1,326 the previous year and 966 five years ago.

“It’s encouraging to see improvements in performance at the same time we’re seeing dramatic increases in the numbers of students taking AP courses,” said Superintendent Jeff Moss. “It means that more students are stretching themselves academically and working to meet the challenge of college-level work while they’re still in high school.  And it means that our educators and schools are supporting those students and helping them to succeed.”

Testing experts say that average scores tend to decrease when more students take the tests, but that hasn’t occurred in Beaufort County over the past five years.

AP courses — and the accompanying College Board exams that demonstrate mastery of the course material — let students earn college credit while still in high school.  Last school year, 47 percent of Beaufort County’s AP students scored 3 or better on the tests’ five-point scale, qualifying them for college credit.  That was slightly down from 50 percent in 2011-12, but an improvement from 44 percent five years ago.

Among local high schools over the past five years:

• Battery Creek High increased the number of AP exams taken from none in 2009 to 178 in 2013.  Twelve percent scored high enough for college credit in 2013.

• Beaufort High increased the number of AP exams from 277 in 2009 to 498 in 2013. Forty-nine percent scored high enough for college credit in 2013, compared to 23 percent in 2009.

• Bluffton High increased the number of AP exams from 275 in 2009 to 521 in 2013. Sixty-five percent scored high enough for college credit in 2013, compared to 60 percent in 2009.

• Hilton Head Island High increased the number of AP exams from 414 in 2009 to 515 in 2013. Thirty-eight percent scored high enough for college credit in 2013, compared to 47 percent in 2009.

• Whale Branch Early College High offers college courses through its partnership with the Technical College of the Lowcountry rather than offering AP courses through the College Board.

Statewide, the percentage of AP exams with scores of 3 or better improved slightly from 57 percent five years ago to 58 percent in 2013. Nationwide, the percentage of exams with scores of 3 or better improved slightly from 57 percent five years ago to 59 percent last year.

Seven Beaufort County students were named 2013 National AP Scholars by the College Board:  Adam Lipsitz from Beaufort High, and from Bluffton High, Ariyanne Colston, Erich Greiner, Darby Jardeleza, Erica Porter, Joseph Porter and Jose Resendiz.  National AP Scholars must have scored 4 or higher on all AP exams and must have taken at least eight exams while in high school.

Eighty-six district students were named AP Scholars for scoring 3 or higher on three or more exams.  Twenty-six students were named AP Scholars with Honor for averaging 3.25 or higher on all exams taken and for scoring 3 or higher on four or more exams. Thirty-five students were named AP Scholars with Distinction for averaging 3.5 on all exams taken and for scoring 3 or higher on five or more exams.

Bluffton High had 38 AP Scholars, 13 AP Scholars with Honor, 19 AP Scholars with Distinction and six of the district’s seven National AP Scholars.