AP scores down, but still tops in state

LAWRENCEVILLE - Although the percentage of Gwinnett County Public Schools students who received passing scores on Advanced Placement exams decreased slightly this year, county students outperformed their peers in the state on 10 popular AP tests.

The percentage of Gwinnett students who scored a 3, 4 or 5 on at least one AP exam dropped two percentage points this year to 64.4 percent, but the number of students taking the exam increased from 9,479 in 2006 to 10,837 in 2007.

"The number of GCPS students who choose to take the Advanced Placement challenge continues to increase in Gwinnett every year," said Jorge Quintana, a school district spokesman. "When students choose to participate in AP classes, it introduces them to a more rigorous curriculum, therefore preparing them for college-level work. The number of test-takers scoring a 3 or higher continues to be strong in Gwinnett even as the number of students taking it continues to increase.

"These results show that more Gwinnett students are planning for higher education and are committed to success. It's also important to remember that while most test-takers are seniors and juniors, Gwinnett also encourages younger students to challenge themselves early in their high school career. This year's increase in Gwinnett test-takers is evidence that more students are striving to exceed their learning potential."

Meanwhile, more Georgia students than ever are taking rigorous Advanced Placement classes and scoring well on the AP exams, according to the College Board's fourth annual AP Report to the Nation.

"Georgia is a national leader in improving AP access and success," State Superintendent of Schools Kathy Cox said in a news release. "Our students are showing the state and the country that they want to be challenged and that they are up to the task."

The annual report, released Wednesday, also shows that Georgia has one of the highest rates of participation among minority students.

"Georgia has made a commitment to making sure every student has access to AP classes," Cox said. "Working with the legislature, we are increasing AP teacher training, paying for students to take AP exams and offering more AP classes through our Georgia Virtual School. This is having a big impact."

Also on Wednesday, the Wachovia Foundation announced it is distributing $250,000 in grants to Atlanta area school systems to improve graduation rates and prepare students for successful entry into college.

The Gwinnett County Public Schools Foundation is receiving $50,000 for its Advanced Placement Schools initiative, according to a news release.

"Support for these initiatives means more students will graduate and they will be better prepared for higher education and the work force," Kendall Alley, Wachovia's Atlanta president, said in a news release. "The Wachovia Foundation is pleased to provide funding that goes directly toward local, effective and measurable education programs that have proven to be successful."

Alexis Kirijan, the executive director of the GCPS Foundation Found, said the grant will help increase Advanced Placement opportunities for students in the county.

"The new partnership with The Wachovia Foundation is a winning combination that will result in more students gaining an understanding of college-level expectations as they actually experience a college-level curriculum while still in high school," Kirijan said in a news release.