Harford scores lower on AP tests than region's other suburbs

While Maryland ranks No. 1 in the country for the fourth year in a row for the percentage of graduating seniors who passed Advanced Placement exams last year, Harford County students' performance fell short of those in the Baltimore Region's other suburban counties.

On average, slightly more than 14 percent of Harford County Public Schools seniors from 11 schools who took the AP exam in 2011 received a score of 3 or higher on the tests. The Maryland state average was 29 percent, according to results published Wednesday by the Maryland State Department of Education.

The tests are scored 1-5, where 3 is considered the minimum for a college to accept the test taker's high school classwork for college credit. Some colleges, however, require a minimum score of 4, according to the College Board, which conducts the AP test program.

The national average for seniors taking the AP test and scoring at least 3 is 18 percent.

With 32 percent of its seniors scoring 3 or better on the AP tests, C. Milton Wright School in Bel Air posted the top performance among Harford's high schools.

The success rate was 24 for seniors at both Patterson Mill and Bel Air high schools, 18 percent at Fallston High School, 16 percent at Aberdeen High School, 15 percent at North Harford High School, 8 percent at both Harford Tech and Edgewood high schools, 7 percent at Havre de Grace High School and 3 percent at Joppatowne High School. The Alternative Education Program at CEO in Aberdeen was the only Harford school with no seniors who scored 3 or better on an AP test last year.

Among other suburban counties in the region, Anne Arundel's 12 schools averaged 27.8 percent of students scoring 3 or better, Carroll County's eight schools averaged 28.4 percent, Howard County's12 schools averaged 39.2 percent and Baltimore County's 24 schools averaged 24 percent. In Baltimore City, the average among 39 schools was 2.44 percent of students scoring 3 or higher.

The AP scores were announced the same day Harford Schools Superintendent Robert Tomback announced at Wednesday's Edgewood Community Council meeting that his school system expects to get grant funding that would allow students at two unnamed schools to take an AP exam at no cost to them. (Please see related story Page A1.)

Last winter, Tomback asked for money to fund an AP pilot program under which the school system would pay for the tests, rather than students and their parents or guardians. The school board, however, eventually cut the $223,242 Tomback requested from the final 2011-12 budget.

According to a Sept. 14, 2011 HCPS news release, Harford County participation in AP assessments had a nearly 7 percent increase from 1,427 students in 2010 to 1,525 students in 2011. The total 2011 enrollment in AP courses was more than 4,000 students, with several taking more than one class.

In 2011, one out of every four Harford students in grades 10 through 12 took at least one AP class, and one in six took an AP exam, the school system said.

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