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Students sit in an Advanced Placement physics class in a high school in Holmes County, Mississippi.
Students sit in an Advanced Placement physics class in a high school in Holmes County, Mississippi. Credit: Jackie Mader/The Hechinger Report

The number of Mississippi students taking and passing college-level Advanced Placement exams hit an all-time high in 2017, and the percentage of Mississippi’s students who received a passing score on an exam doubled compared to ten years ago.

The increase in performance was highlighted in a new data analysis released by The College Board, More than 10,500 students in the state took more than 16,000 AP exams in 2017, which is more than double the number of students and exams reported ten years ago. Nearly 35 percent of the state’s 11th- and 12th-grade exam takers scored a 3 or higher, compared to 33 percent in 2016.

The state’s superintendent of education, Carey Wright, said in a statement about the improvement that all the state’s students “benefit from increased participation and performance in AP courses.” She added Mississippi officials “will continue to encourage opportunities for all students to have access to rigorous courses and to receive credit for passing the exams.”

Research shows students who receive a 3 or higher on an AP exam in high school are more likely to have a higher college GPA and stay in college than students who score poorly or who do not take an AP exam. Mississippi has attempted to increase participation in AP exams, especially among underrepresented student groups and provides subsidies to encourage low-income students to take the exams.

Although participation and performance has improved, the state still has some stark gaps. Only 18 male students and one female student took the Computer Science A exam in 2017, for example.

Nationwide, the number of high school graduates from public schools who took an AP exam during high school has increased by 70 percent since 2007. In that same time period, the percent of graduates who scored a 3 or higher, which is often considered passing, increased by 68 percent. The pass rates for African-American and American Indian/Alaska Native students lag behind those of Latinos and whites. Asians, who make up only 6 percent of the test takers, account for almost 12 percent of the passing scores.

You can download national and state-specific AP data here.

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