Dara Szwejkowski teaches an AP precalculus class at Valley Stream High...

Dara Szwejkowski teaches an AP precalculus class at Valley Stream High School North on Monday. The school district is adding Advanced Placement courses. Credit: Newsday/Alejandra Villa Loarca

New York State and Long Island are home to hefty numbers of students who succeed in college-level coursework while still in high school, national and regional surveys show.

The latest state rankings put New York in second place, behind Massachusetts, in numbers of teens who pass at least one college-level Advanced Placement test before graduating from high school. The list is published annually by the College Board, a Manhattan-based nonprofit that sponsors AP courses and exams. 

According to the College Board, 28.9% of public school students in New York's Class of 2023, or a total of 51,234 students, passed one or more AP tests before graduating. Those three-hour assessments measure achievement in college-level studies, ranging from art history to calculus BC, and are usually taken in May. 

Tests are scored on a scale of 0 to 5, with 3 or higher considered passing. Passing grades in AP classes are widely accepted for college credit.

"I wanted to challenge myself with a hard math course," said Erin Garnier, 16, a junior at Valley Stream North High School who is taking an AP precalculus course this year.

Massachusetts topped the College Board list, as it often does, with 31.3% of its 2023 graduates passing the exams. Other high-ranking states, in order of achievement, were New Jersey in third place at 28.6%, Florida fourth at 28.4% and Connecticut fifth at 27.9%. 

The average national student percentage was 21.7%.

The latest results mark the second consecutive year that New York has held the No. 2 spot and somewhat of an academic comeback. New York had slipped as low as eighth place among states in AP rankings in 2019 before bouncing back to third in 2021 and second in 2022. 

A large part of the state's success can be traced to high performance in many of Long Island's districts. 

One example is provided in the latest ratings report on public high schools by U.S. News & World Report, which is based partly on results of AP testing. The report listed 20 Island schools including those in Jericho, Garden City and Manhasset, among the top 1,000 in the country. 

Also, in 2022, Newsday reviewed results of AP testing from the previous year in more than 600 districts statewide, including 98 in Nassau and Suffolk counties. 

It found that the Island's school systems did relatively well in terms of the proportion of students passing AP tests. Among districts scoring in the top 10% statewide, the Island had nearly half, with 29 districts out of 60.

“The outcome of AP testing is another testament to the high quality of public education on Long Island,” said Bob Vecchio, executive director of the Nassau-Suffolk School Boards Association. “The vast majority of districts on the Island offer AP courses, and some are expanding those offerings.”

A Newsday survey of all the Island's districts, conducted in recent weeks as part of annual school budget coverage, asked among other things whether they planned on program expansions during the coming year. What Newsday found was a mixture of situations among local districts that provided cause for both hope and concern. 

On one hand, a few districts facing fiscal stresses reported plans to cut one or two AP courses in their high schools. However, the great majority of responding districts indicated they expected to preserve all academic programs and services in 2024-25, with some planning for expansion. 

Westbury High School, for example, will begin offering International Baccalaureate courses next year, making it the 11th school in the region to do so. IB courses, like those provided through AP, are taught at a college level and widely accepted for credit by colleges and universities. 

Meanwhile, Manhasset High School plans to open a new class in AP macroeconomics, with 34 students already requesting permission to enroll. Also, the Valley Stream Central High School District is adding AP courses in African American studies at all three of its high schools. 

Valley Stream school administrators said they like to add new courses for students whenever the College Board makes them available. In the current year, for example, the district has added AP precalculus at those same schools. Administrators add that more than 200 students, mostly 11th graders, are currently enrolled in precalculus. 

"We're proud that, when given the opportunity, so many of our students choose the more rigorous path," said Jennifer DiMaio, the district's assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction. 

Precalculus is the sort of advanced course that employs terminology scary to many non-mathematicians, with terms such as polynomials, parameters, vectors and matrices. Put more simply, precalculus is a tool useful to society in any number of measurements, ranging from increases or decreases in agricultural crop yields, to the amount of time required to fill a pool with water. 

Dara Szwejkowski, who teaches precalculus and calculus at Valley Stream North High School, sees opportunity in the expansion of math courses. 

"It just opens up more doors for the kids," said Szwejkowski, who has taught for more than 20 years. "You know, it's funny. Everyone asks what I do and I say 'I teach math' and everyone is like, 'Aww man, I was terrible at math. I don't like math.' But you know, it's rewarding. I love getting the kids excited for math and making sure they don't hate it."

New York State and Long Island are home to hefty numbers of students who succeed in college-level coursework while still in high school, national and regional surveys show.

The latest state rankings put New York in second place, behind Massachusetts, in numbers of teens who pass at least one college-level Advanced Placement test before graduating from high school. The list is published annually by the College Board, a Manhattan-based nonprofit that sponsors AP courses and exams. 

According to the College Board, 28.9% of public school students in New York's Class of 2023, or a total of 51,234 students, passed one or more AP tests before graduating. Those three-hour assessments measure achievement in college-level studies, ranging from art history to calculus BC, and are usually taken in May. 

Tests are scored on a scale of 0 to 5, with 3 or higher considered passing. Passing grades in AP classes are widely accepted for college credit.

WHAT TO KNOW

  • New York ranks second among all states, next to Massachusetts, in percentages of students passing at least one college-level Advanced Placement test before graduating from high school. 
  • Many high schools on Long Island contribute to the state's standing by graduating large numbers of students with credit from college-level Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate exams.
  • The great majority of the region's school districts continue to maintain college-level coursework, and some are expanding those programs while a few others cut back. 

"I wanted to challenge myself with a hard math course," said Erin Garnier, 16, a junior at Valley Stream North High School who is taking an AP precalculus course this year.

Massachusetts topped the College Board list, as it often does, with 31.3% of its 2023 graduates passing the exams. Other high-ranking states, in order of achievement, were New Jersey in third place at 28.6%, Florida fourth at 28.4% and Connecticut fifth at 27.9%. 

The average national student percentage was 21.7%.

The latest results mark the second consecutive year that New York has held the No. 2 spot and somewhat of an academic comeback. New York had slipped as low as eighth place among states in AP rankings in 2019 before bouncing back to third in 2021 and second in 2022. 

High performers on Long Island

A large part of the state's success can be traced to high performance in many of Long Island's districts. 

One example is provided in the latest ratings report on public high schools by U.S. News & World Report, which is based partly on results of AP testing. The report listed 20 Island schools including those in Jericho, Garden City and Manhasset, among the top 1,000 in the country. 

Also, in 2022, Newsday reviewed results of AP testing from the previous year in more than 600 districts statewide, including 98 in Nassau and Suffolk counties. 

A student at work in an AP precalculus class at Valley...

A student at work in an AP precalculus class at Valley Stream High School North. Credit: Newsday/Alejandra Villa Loarca

It found that the Island's school systems did relatively well in terms of the proportion of students passing AP tests. Among districts scoring in the top 10% statewide, the Island had nearly half, with 29 districts out of 60.

“The outcome of AP testing is another testament to the high quality of public education on Long Island,” said Bob Vecchio, executive director of the Nassau-Suffolk School Boards Association. “The vast majority of districts on the Island offer AP courses, and some are expanding those offerings.”

A Newsday survey of all the Island's districts, conducted in recent weeks as part of annual school budget coverage, asked among other things whether they planned on program expansions during the coming year. What Newsday found was a mixture of situations among local districts that provided cause for both hope and concern. 

On one hand, a few districts facing fiscal stresses reported plans to cut one or two AP courses in their high schools. However, the great majority of responding districts indicated they expected to preserve all academic programs and services in 2024-25, with some planning for expansion. 

More options soon at some schools

Westbury High School, for example, will begin offering International Baccalaureate courses next year, making it the 11th school in the region to do so. IB courses, like those provided through AP, are taught at a college level and widely accepted for credit by colleges and universities. 

Meanwhile, Manhasset High School plans to open a new class in AP macroeconomics, with 34 students already requesting permission to enroll. Also, the Valley Stream Central High School District is adding AP courses in African American studies at all three of its high schools. 

Valley Stream school administrators said they like to add new courses for students whenever the College Board makes them available. In the current year, for example, the district has added AP precalculus at those same schools. Administrators add that more than 200 students, mostly 11th graders, are currently enrolled in precalculus. 

"We're proud that, when given the opportunity, so many of our students choose the more rigorous path," said Jennifer DiMaio, the district's assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction. 

Precalculus is the sort of advanced course that employs terminology scary to many non-mathematicians, with terms such as polynomials, parameters, vectors and matrices. Put more simply, precalculus is a tool useful to society in any number of measurements, ranging from increases or decreases in agricultural crop yields, to the amount of time required to fill a pool with water. 

Dara Szwejkowski, who teaches precalculus and calculus at Valley Stream North High School, sees opportunity in the expansion of math courses. 

"It just opens up more doors for the kids," said Szwejkowski, who has taught for more than 20 years. "You know, it's funny. Everyone asks what I do and I say 'I teach math' and everyone is like, 'Aww man, I was terrible at math. I don't like math.' But you know, it's rewarding. I love getting the kids excited for math and making sure they don't hate it."

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