Montgomery County students took a record-high number of AP exams but earned a smaller percentage of college-ready scores in 2013 compared to 2012, according to College Board data the school system released Friday.
About 17,000 students took about 33,600 AP exams in spring 2013, marking a 2 percent increase in the number of exams from last year when about 16,800 students took about 32,000 exams.
This year’s students earned a score of 3 or higher — or a college-ready score — on about 73 percent of their exams, which is two percentage points lower than last year. The exam takers still slightly outdid their peers from 2011 who earned college-ready scores on 71.8 percent of their exams.
The test is scored on a range from 1 to 5, and a score of 3 or higher indicates a student is qualified to receive college credit or advanced placement.
Maryland students overall earned a 3 or higher on about 60.4 percent of their tests and students across the nation earned college-ready scores on about 57 percent of their tests.
School board President Christopher S. Barclay said in an interview that, while it is ideal for students to earn college-ready scores, he sees great benefit in students taking the AP courses and tests to help them prepare for college and beyond.
Barclay said he thinks the school system needs to increase AP-course access for more students. It also needs to make sure students are well-prepared in lower-level classes before they enter the high-level AP courses, he said.
Superintendent Joshua P. Starr said in a statement he was pleased with the exam results but that there are still “significant gaps in performance.”
The percentage of college-ready scores dropped across the school system’s Asian, African-American, Hispanic and white student groups but increased slightly for students who identified themselves on the exams as two or more races.
The largest drops were seen among African-American and Hispanic students.
About 47 percent of African-American students’ tests got a score of 3 or higher, which is about 4.8 percentage points lower than last year.
Hispanic students earned a college-ready score on 56 percent of their tests — about 4 percentage points lower than last year.
Both African-American and Hispanic students in the county school system, however, have achieved significantly higher percentages of college-ready scores than their peers on the state and national levels in recent years, including this year.
Comparatively, white students grabbed college-ready scores on 79.6 percent of their tests this year — a decrease of about 1.7 percentage points from last year. Asian students — with college-ready scores on 78.2 percent of their tests — only saw a slight drop from 78.6 percent last year.
AP exam participation increased again this year for both African-American and Hispanic students, continuing an increasing trend in recent years.
Hispanic students took 4,253 tests in 2013, a increase of 237 from 4,016 in 2012. African-American students took 3,297 tests in 2013 — 191 more than 2012 when they took 3,106 tests.
The number of African-American students taking AP exams has risen about 31.4 percent since 2008. The number of Hispanic students taking the exams has risen about 78.7 percent in the same amount of time.
Hispanic students in nine high schools earned a higher percentage of college-ready scores this year compared to Hispanic students at their schools in 2012. The first several largest increases occurred at Col. Zadok Magruder with an increase of 12.7 percentage points, John F. Kennedy with an increase of 8.2 percentage points and Damascus with an increase of 6.9 percentage points.
The other 16 high schools saw decreased percentages of exams with college-ready scores among Hispanic students. The largest decreases occurred at Springbrook, which dropped 20 percentage points; Sherwood, which dropped 11.5 percentage points; and Albert Einstein, which dropped 11.2 percentage points.
In eight high schools, African-American students earned a higher percentage of college-ready scores compared to their peers last year. Damascus students earned an increase of 16 percentage points, Wheaton an increase of 8.5 percentage points and Col. Zadok Magruder an increase of 8.1 percentage points.
Except for Walt Whitman, which remained the same, the other high schools saw decreased percentages in the number of college-ready scores African-American students earned. Among the largest decreases, Richard Montgomery saw a decrease of 19.3 percentage points, and both Clarksburg and Wootton saw decreases of 15.9 percentage points.