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New report shows increased participation, success in AP exams for N.C. students

Students leave East Chapel Hill High School on Monday, Sept. 12, 2022.

North Carolina students showed increased participation and success in Advanced Placement exams during the 2022-2023 school year and exceeded national averages. 

This score increase follows the decreases during the COVID-19 pandemic according to a report from N.C. Department of Public Instruction released on Sept. 28.

From last year, the number of students in North Carolina taking at least one AP exam increased by 11.2 percent, compared to the national average of a 7.6 percent increase. This participation number also increased 1.8 percent since the 2018-2019 school year, the last pre-pandemic year. Nationally, this increase was only 0.37 percent.

North Carolina students also scored higher on the exams, with a 12.6 percent increase in proficiency since last year. A score of three out of five is considered proficient. 

About 60 percent of students taking AP exams both in North Carolina and nationally are considered proficient.

Sneha Shah-Coltrane, the NCDPI's director of advanced learning and gifted education, said increased access to AP instruction has contributed to increased participation and success on exams.

“Not only is a kid getting into that seat in a classroom, they’re also being engaged with that instruction in a way that they’re able to be successful,” she said. “That, I feel like, shows the incredible efforts of our teachers and our communities.” 

She said open enrollment policies within schools, such as taking away prerequisites and entrance exams, as well the “changing mindsets” of educators to see students in a successful light, have allowed for increased participation, especially for students of color.

This past year the number of AP exams taken by Black students in North Carolina increased by 14.7 percent and 20.6 percent for Latino students. Proficiency on these exams also increased 21.8 percent for Black students and 23.3 percent for Latino students. 

All of these figures surpassed the national growth in proficiency for underrepresented student groups.

Joanne McClelland, an AP English Literature teacher at Chapel Hill High School, said she thinks students of color not feeling comfortable in AP classrooms has contributed to barriers to education in past years.

“Being a minority myself, and teaching minority kids in the AP Lit class, it is so important that they are able to have a voice and that they are able to really express themselves as it relates to the literature,” she said.

McClelland is the advancement via individual determination (AVID) coordinator at CHHS, and brought the program — a college preparatory education program working to close the district's racial opportunity gap — to CHHS in 1996. Students in the AVID program are required to sign up for at least one AP class.

She also said when she first began working with the program, most of her students were from underrepresented groups and none of them had ever taken an AP class. Now, she said many of her students score three and above on their AP exams and receive college credits for their classes.

Other programs such as the NC AP Partnership and individual school initiatives have also contributed to increased participation in AP classes, according to Karyn Dickerson, AP Coordinator and Instructional Literacy Coach at CHHS.

She said that the College Board creates an AP potential report based on students' PSAT scores at CHHS which recommends classes for them to take. She said this has encouraged AP class registration. 

“I think a lot of that has helped open up access to courses by making it something that’s just part of the culture of conversation in a school,” she said. ”Everyone talking about what you’re capable of and removing any sort of barriers to accessing those courses.” 

@DTHCityState |

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