Idaho’s AP numbers remain well below national average

Idaho high school students can take Advanced Placement tests on the taxpayer’s dime — but Idaho’s AP numbers still remain well below the national average.

The new national numbers, released Wednesday, tell a familiar story.

  • Only 13.5 percent of Idaho’s class of 2018 graduated with at least one passing score on an AP test. The national average was 23.5 percent.
  • Idaho’s rate ranked No. 39 nationally, unchanged from the previous year.
  • Idaho’s numbers are trending upward. A decade ago, only 9.5 percent of Idaho graduates passed at least one AP test. But while Idaho’s rate improved by 4 percentage points, it isn’t keeping pace. Nationally, the rate improved by more than 8 percentage points.

Passing an AP test is significant for students — and for Idaho, the AP numbers are significant from a public policy perspective.

While AP classes and exams are rigorous, the rewards are significant. Passing an AP test can translate into college credits. According to the College Board, the nonprofit that administers the program, students who pass an AP test are more likely to graduate from college in four years — thus saving the expense of an extra year of tuition or fees.

As Idaho continues to try to boost its stagnant college attendance and graduation rates, AP fits into that picture.

The state’s rapidly growing advanced opportunities program gives Idaho students a $4,125 allowance to kickstart their college careers, and students can use this state money to cover the cost of AP exams.

But for the students taking part in advanced opportunities, AP exams are not the college vehicle of choice. Last school year, students took about 13,000 AP exams. Meanwhile, they took more than 60,000 dual-credit courses, college-level classes that are aligned with Idaho institutions. These courses directly translate into credits for a two- or four-year degree.

In most other states, students do not have the option of taking dual-credit courses for free. “I believe that makes it difficult to compare Idaho (AP) results to other states,” said Linda Clark, State Board of Education president.

Those dual-credit classes easily transfer to Idaho colleges, but they don’t always transfer to out-of-state colleges. For Idaho students looking to attend an out-of-state college — about 12 percent of graduates annually — AP exams can be a better option, said Kris Rodine, a spokeswoman for state superintendent Sherri Ybarra.

“The College Board numbers simply reflect that fewer Idaho students choose to take AP exams than their counterparts across the nation,” Rodine said.

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