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Advanced Placement scores in county below average

February 11, 2001|By TARA REILLY

Advanced Placement scores in county below average



Advanced Placement test scores for Washington County students have been below the state and national averages every year since at least 1995, according to a study provided by the Board of Education.

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The results have prompted the board to undertake a countywide assessment of its advanced program to determine why the scores are down, said Linda Fernandez, the board's director of curriculum.

"That's what we're trying to figure out," Fernandez said. The assessment should be done by mid-summer.

Last year, the average county score was 2.8, while the state average was 3.2. The national average was a 3.0. The tests are scored on a scale from one to five, with five being the highest and one being the lowest.

Fifty-eight percent of the 220 county students who took at least one or more of the AP tests scored a three or higher, while 71 percent in the state averaged a three or higher. Sixty-four percent of students in the nation averaged a three or higher.

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County students took 346 AP tests in 2000, up from the 251 tests taken in 1995.

All students may take AP tests in a variety of subjects, including biology, calculus, chemistry, English literature, physics and psychology. The tests are given for 10 days in May.

"Anybody at all can take an Advanced Placement test whether you're taking an AP course or not," she said.

Students who score satisfactorily on the tests could be awarded college credits, according to a statement from the Maryland State Department of Education.

Fernandez said the school system would like to increase the number of test-takers and then increase the scores. Not all students in AP courses take AP tests, she said. Students may take more than one AP test a year.

AP courses are college-level courses.

Fernandez said the board will look at increasing the number of advanced courses offered, professional development for AP teachers and AP curriculum.

The school system has received state grant money to study the program, she said.

The state Department of Education is also pushing for improved test scores across Maryland. It plans to use a $1.5 million grant to improve AP test accessibility for economically disadvantaged students and has partnered with the College Board. The College Board administers AP tests and the SAT.

Under the partnership, the College Board will work with Maryland school systems to improve AP participation and success rates, according to a press release.

"Financial concerns of individuals should never be a barrier to learning, and these moves should help tear down some barriers that have existed," State Superintendent of Schools Nancy S. Grasmick said in a press release.

The low AP scores in the county aren't in line with local SAT and MSPAP results. County SAT scores are above state and national averages, while the school system has moved from 14th in the state on MSPAPs to 6th.

"We're leaving our high-end kids behind," said School Board member Doris Nipps.

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