Wisconsin High School Graduates Rank Above The National Average In Passing AP Tests

Nearly a quarter of Wisconsin’s 2015 high school graduates passed an Advanced Placement test, according to new numbers from the College Board.

Nearly a quarter of Wisconsin’s 2015 high school graduates passed at least one Advanced Placement test, according to new numbers from the College Board.

At 24.7 percent, Wisconsin has the 12th-highest passing rate for graduates in the country. The national average is 22.4 percent.

Since 2005, the portion of the state’s high school graduates passing at least one AP test has climbed by 10.9 percentage points, outpacing the 9.1-point increase for the country as a whole.

Students who pass the exams can often receive college credit. Studies conducted by the College Board — the nonprofit that develops AP courses and end-of-course exams — show students who pass the tests are more likely to complete a college degree in four years.

“The Advanced Placement Program provides our kids with college-level coursework that exposes them to the rigors of higher education while they are still in high school,” state Superintendent Tony Evers wrote in a statement from the Department of Public Instruction. “We’re continuing to see growth in participation and achievement, which is a good place to be.”

However, Wisconsin mirrors national trends for lower participation rates for rural and low-income students.

“A lot of rural schools just don’t have the staff or finances to allow AP courses for students,” said Jon Oestreich, who chairs the Wisconsin Advanced Placement Advisory Council, a committee of AP teachers and state and university representatives who work on improving AP programs and access. “Students throughout the state frequently enroll in the Wisconsin Virtual School to enroll in an AP course.”

While more than 40 percent of the state’s public school students are from low-income households, they made up just 13.5 percent of 2015 AP test-takers.

Data released last year showed pass rates varied widely for students by race. Overall, Wisconsin’s students passed about two-thirds of the AP exams they took in 2015. But white and Asian students passed the tests at rates of 69 and 68 percent respectively, while the state’s black students had a pass rate of just 29 percent. Hispanic students’ passing rate was 53 percent and Native American students’ was 56 percent.

Oestreich said WAPAC and the state are making ongoing efforts to expose younger students to materials and courses “with increased rigor” to prepare them for AP classes, partly as an attempt to help address some of those disparities.