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Virginia students again among Top 10 in achievement on AP exams

Nearly three out of every 10 of Virginia’s 2020 public high school graduates demonstrated college-level achievement on at least one Advanced Placement examination, according to data released today by the College Board, the nonprofit organization that manages the AP program.

The College Board reported today that 28.6 percent of the commonwealth’s 2020 graduating seniors earned a score of three or higher on at least one AP test. This represented a slight decrease from 2019, when 28.8 percent of graduating seniors earned qualifying scores.

The commonwealth ranked 10th in the nation in AP performance. Nationwide, 24.4 percent of graduating seniors achieved scores of three or higher.

“While Virginia continues to rank in the top 10 in AP participation and performance, there are still wide disparities in participation and outcomes when we compare data for different student groups,” Superintendent of Public Instruction James Lane said. “As high schools recover from the coronavirus pandemic, equity — including expanding access to AP courses and identifying and encouraging more students with the potential to succeed — must be a priority.”

Disaggregated by student group, the percentages of Virginia 2020 graduates who earned a qualifying score on at least one AP examination during high school are as follows:

Asian students: 52.0%

American Indian students: 12.7%

Black students: 9.1%

Hispanic students: 24.3%

White students: 28.1%

Virginia students earned qualifying scores on 98,556 AP examinations in 2020. According to the College Board, this represents an estimated 295,698 college credits. At an average rate of $462 per college credit hour, the College Board estimates the total potential cost savings for the commonwealth’s students and families was $136,612,476.

Although colleges and universities set their own policies for awarding credit, a score of three or higher on an AP test is generally accepted as indicative of college-level work.

The 10 most popular AP courses among Virginia’s 2019 graduating seniors were — in descending order — English Language and Composition, U.S. History, U.S. Government and Politics, World History: Modern, Psychology, English Literature and Composition, Calculus AB, Biology, Environmental Science and Human Geography.

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