More on Advanced Placement Tests, 1955-2011

Last post, we looked at the total number of students taking Advanced Placement exams since 1955.

What about pass rates? Are more kids taking them but flunking them?

In a few places, that may be true, especially schools that are trying to do well on Jay Mathews’ fairly short-sighted ‘Challenge Index’. But look for yourself at the graph below, which shows how many students get scores of 3, 4, or 5 (passing)  on their exams and how many get scores of 1 or 2 (not passing). This graph only goes back to 1991, because that’s all that I could find on The College Board website.

passing + failing numbers of AP exams 1991-2011


I present the pass rates next as a percentage, rather than the absolute numbers.  In general, pass rates are declining a bit, but not tremendously. It would be better if the pass rates were bit higher, but consider this:

If a test is really rigorous, as these tests are, NOT EVERYBODY IS GOING TO SUCCEED.

Remember: neither you nor I would probably be able to pass the AP Chemistry test unless we happened to be an AP Chemistry teacher.

Nor could we succeed at being on ANY national Olympic Decathlon team, to pick a sport at random!

pass rates on AP exams 1991-2011


Once again, my point is this: despite all the problems that they really do have, and despite all the pressures and attacks on American public schools they are, in fact, doing some things much better than ever before, despite everything.

And it’s taken a lot of hard work by professionally trained and experienced teachers and administrators, with support from families and local school boards, to accomplish this.

Neither Bill Gates, Michelle Rhee, Wendy Kopp, nor Arne Duncan attended public schools. At best, they don’t know what they are talking about. At worst, they are trying to destroy American public education completely.

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