by Rebecca Grapevine | Apr 5, 2023 | Capitol Beat News Service

ATLANTA – More than one-fifth of Georgia’s public high school graduates earned passing scores on at least one Advanced Placement examination, putting the state in 15th place nationally, according to new data out this week.  

The AP program allows students to take college-equivalent courses while still in high school. Each course is assessed by an examination graded on a 1 to 5 scale. Students who score 3 or higher on the exams are typically eligible for college credit for the course.  

Last year, 21.2% of Georgia students who took the tests scored a 3 or higher, putting Georgia just below the national average of 21.6%.  

Georgia students and their families could save around $91 million on college costs because the scores allow students to get college credits for courses taken in high school, according to the College Board, which administers the program.

“What an accomplishment for these hardworking students and their teachers and families,” State School Superintendent Richard Woods said. “As a state, we will continue to pursue excellence and strive to open doors to opportunity for every student who enters our public schools.” 

Even if students earn scores too low to qualify for college credit (typically a score of 1 or 2), there are benefits to taking the AP courses and exams, the College Board says. Those who initially earn lower scores often go on to take other AP exams and earn higher scores. And even those students who earn a score of 2 on the exam perform as well or better than others in introductory college courses.  

Students can choose to take AP courses in a wide variety of topics, from Latin to music theory to advanced physics.  

Among 2022 public school graduates in Georgia, humanities and social science exams were the most popular, with close to 15,000 Peach State grads taking the English language and composition exam and 14,612 taking the United States history exam.  

Around 7,200 Georgia public school graduates took the environmental science exam, 6,512 took the biology exam, and 6,700 took the statistics exam. The AP also offers two computer science exams, and close to 4,000 Georgia grads took a course focused on principles of computer science, with another 2,200 taking an exam specifically focused on programming.   

Spanish was by far the most popular foreign-language exam, with close to 2,500 graduating seniors taking the language exam and another 161 taking the Spanish literature exam. French was the next most popular among foreign languages, with 376 public school graduates taking the exam.  

German, Latin, and Chinese all had fewer than 200 test-takers. Just 12 members of the class of 2022 took the Japanese exam, and only one took the Italian exam.  

Overall, slightly fewer Georgia students are taking AP exams than they did ten years ago. Last year, 33.9% of Peach State graduates took at least one exam, down from about 37% in 2012. Nationally, more students are taking the exams than they did a decade ago.  

There are also racial disparities among the students who take the exams. About 38% of white Georgia public school graduates and 34% of Hispanic or Latino graduates took an exam during high school, while only 20% of Black Georgia graduates did so. Among Asian Georgia grads, 74% took at least one exam, according to data from the College Board.  

This story is available through a news partnership with Capitol Beat News Service, a project of the Georgia Press Educational Foundation.

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