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New York ranks 7th nationally in AP exam performance, report says

Students at William Floyd High School in Mastic

Students at William Floyd High School in Mastic Beach participate in a critique session in their AP Advanced Art class on Thursday, Feb. 16, 2017. Credit: Randee Daddona

New York placed seventh nationally in the percentage of public high school graduates succeeding on Advanced Placement exams in 2016, moving up from eighth the year before, according to a College Board report released Wednesday.

New York, which in 2008 led the nation and in 2012 was second, trailed other states that have surged ahead — including Massachusetts, which ranked No. 1 for the first time.

Thirty-one percent of Massachusetts’ public high school graduates scored a 3 or higher on an AP exam in 2016, the report said. The highest score on the exams is 5.

Maryland, which had held the top spot since 2009, was second, followed by Connecticut, Florida, California and Virginia.

The College Board said 27.3 percent of New York public high school graduates scored a 3 or better on AP tests, up from 26 percent in 2015. The state showed a 6.7 percentage point increase in those scoring 3 or higher over the past decade.

National participation on AP exams “continues to grow, but what is more important is that performance continues to improve,” said David Coleman, president of the Manhattan-based College Board, which sponsors AP courses and tests, the SAT college admissions exam and other assessments.

The number of public high school graduates taking at least one AP exam has almost doubled in 10 years, from 645,000 for the Class of 2006 to 1.1 million in the Class of 2016, the data showed.

The William Floyd school district in Suffolk County is among systems on Long Island that have increased their number of AP offerings. In the 2015-16 school year, about 70 percent of William Floyd High School students who took the exams scored a 3 or better.

“Increasing the number of AP courses benefits the district by raising overall academic standards,” said Donna Watkins, director of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. “William Floyd students now have several more opportunities for college and career readiness.”

The district has 15 AP courses at the high school and is adding one more for the 2017-18 school year — AP Computer Science. It previously had added the AP courses Calculus BC in 2013 and Spanish Language & Culture in 2014.

About 400 of William Floyd’s 2,900 students are enrolled in the courses, several of which are classified as dual enrollment, giving high schoolers the ability to earn college credit, district officials said.

The College Board report does not break down data for Long Island.

A Newsday analysis published in October, based on State Education Department figures, showed that more Long Island public school students than ever before were taking and passing AP exams.

Across the Island, 73,472 AP exams were administered in spring 2016, according to figures the state agency compiled at Newsday’s request. That number was up about 2.8 percentage points from 2015 and 31 percentage points from 2009, the earliest year for which state data are available.

Coleman and other College Board officials, in releasing the report Wednesday, said they are concerned that a change in the way the exam fees are covered for low-income students could affect participation rates.

Under the federal Every Student Succeeds Act passed by Congress and signed into law by President Barack Obama in December 2015, states and districts cannot access funds through the federal AP Test Fee Program, because funding no longer is exclusively earmarked for such exam fees. The Every Student Succeeds Act, or ESSA, replaced the No Child Left Behind Act proposed and passed during President George W. Bush’s first term.

Last year, more than 450,000 low-income students used a combination of federal funding and College Board reductions to reduce or eliminate that fee, College Board officials said.

Now, states and districts must dedicate funding to cover exam fees either under ESSA Title IV-A and federal Title I or their own state education budgets. New York State Education Department officials said they were aware of the change under ESSA and have instructed districts about it.

Top AP exam performances

States with highest % of 2016 graduates scoring 3 or better

1 - Massachusetts = 31.0%

2 - Maryland - 30.4%

3 - Connecticut - 30.1%

4 - Florida - 29.5%

5 - California - 28.5%

6 - Virginia - 28.3%

7 - New York - 27.3%

8 - Colorado - 26.9%

9 - New Jersey - 26.5%

10 - Illinois - 25.1%

Source: College Board

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