The Texas schools released figures in September 2006, showing substantial increases in the number of Texas schools students taking Advanced Placement (AP) exams, as well as their resulting scores.
High schools across the nation are allowed to teach college-level coursework that is first approved by the College Board, the national administrator of the AP exams. Under current rules, a high school need only sign a form promising to teach the specific curriculum for any class to be designated AP.
When Texas schools students take and pass an AP exam with a high enough score, they receive college credit for the course, which they will not have to take when they attend college. Not only does this allow college-bound students to take fewer courses in college to fulfill their degree requirements, but it also means that they and their parents save money on the cost of college tuition.
Many Texas schools districts see this as a win-win situation that encourages students and provides incentives for them to attend college after graduating high school. Here is some of the information released by the Texas schools:
o The number of high school students in the Texas schools that took AP exams increased from 80,240 in 2002 to 122,969 in 2006 — more than a 50 percent increase;
o The number of Texas schools students, who scored high enough to earn college credit in 2006, increased by more than 40 percent from 2002;
o There was a total of 224,168 tests taken in 2006 and 49 percent of these scores were three or higher — this is a slight drop from the 53 percent of three of higher scores in 2002;
o English language, English literature, and U.S. history remain the most popular of the 35 AP exams available; and
o Italian, Latin literature, French literature, microeconomics, and physics of electricity and magnetism were the least popular.
To encourage students to participate in AP coursework, as well as to take and pass the exams, many Texas schools districts provide cash incentives to both their students and teachers. They partner with nonprofit donor organizations or use foundation grants to fund their AP incentives. Some students and teachers earn from $100 to $300 for each exam passed. The incentives must work, since all of the schools using them have seen a dramatic increase in the number of students taking and passing the exams. Galveston’s Ball High School, for example, expects to receive $15,800 this year in student-earned incentives.
The Texas schools attributed their improved results for 2006 to the cash incentives, incentives to reduce exam costs for students (up to $80 for each exam), increased teacher training, and the overall push by the Texas schools to create a college-bound culture within their high schools.