For the eighth year in a row, Maryland is No. 1 in the nation in the percentage of graduates who have passed at least one Advanced Placement exam, according to a report released Tuesday by the College Board.
The percentage of Maryland graduates in 2013 who succeeded on the exam rose to 29.6 percent, up from 28.1 percent the previous year.
Maryland's No. 1 ranking comes in part because so many students take the courses and exams. Nearly half of all Maryland graduates are taking the exams — about 47 percent. Far more than half of graduates will have taken a class, though about 20 percent take the courses and never sit for the exams.
Although participation and access to the classes is high in the state, many students will not pass an exam and there is no research that suggests that students who do better on the exams will perform better in their freshman year of college. A Baltimore Sun analysis last year showed that in some schools around the state, the majority of students who get As and Bs from their teachers in AP classes are then failing the exams.
African-Americans represent 36 percent of Maryland's graduates in 2013, but only 12 percent of the total who had passed at least one exam. And low-income students represented only 14 percent of the passers.
To celebrate the news, Gov. Martin O'Malley held a video conference Tuesday with AP students from two Charles County high schools, a district that saw a 20 percent increase in scores of 3, which is passing, or higher since 2009.
"I get to do the victory lap for you, but you guys are really the ones who did the hard work, so thanks a lot," O'Malley said.
The governor and schools Superintendent Lillian M. Lowery told a class of AP computer science students from North Point High School in Waldorf that they were working on legislation that would make their course count for college credit in math. O'Malley said currently it does not count.
"It's a brave new world out there," O'Malley said. "The jobs are aplenty out there guys, if you know how to do this stuff."
Lowery said in a statement that while Maryland has been making steady progress, schools must work to reduce the achievement gap between white and minority students.
Connecticut had the second highest ranking, with a 28.8 percent pass rate, while Virginia came in third with a 28.3 percent passing rate for 2013 graduates.
Baltimore Sun reporter Erin Cox contributed to this article.