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Editorial: Rising student achievement

The rising number of students taking advanced placement classes demonstrates a commitment to education not only from state policy makers, but from students who push themselves to higher achievement while still in high school.

Last week, the College Board released the latest figures on students taking and passing advanced placement classes across the nation. According to the College Board's "10th Annual AP Report to the Nation," the percentage of Maryland seniors who earned a score of 3 or higher on one or more AP exams reached 29.6 in 2013, the highest percentage in the nation and an increase over the 28.1 percent tallied in 2012. A score of 3 or better is the threshold at which many higher education institutions award college credit for high school students in AP assessments.

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In addition, the report noted that Maryland has seen a big increase in the percentage of Black/African-American students having success on the AP assessments, as 11.7 percent of students receiving a grade of 3 or better in Maryland were Black/African-American. That percentage ranks third, behind Mississippi and Louisiana among all states. The percentage of Hispanic test takers is also increasing. Hispanic students accounted for 9.3 percent of the Maryland graduating class last year, according to the report, and 8.8 percent of the seniors who scored 3 or higher on the AP exam were Hispanic.

Nearly half - 47 percent - of all graduates had taken one of the rigorous exams, the report noted. That ranked third behind the District of Columbia and Florida.

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Overall last year, 27,370 Maryland students took an AP exam, and 17,111 scored a 3 or better. That's up from 13,315 taking an AP exam in 2003 and 9,184 who received a three or better, according to the report.

In a press release, Gov. Martin O'Malley said, "The AP program offers one of the most important pathways to a better future, and we are committed to preparing our students for college and career success globally. Our hardworking students, dedicated educators, and outstanding parents deserve our congratulations and support."

It is good that schools across the state offer opportunities for students to push the limits of their learning, and getting credit for college level courses carries additional benefits when students do go on institutions of higher learning.

We have an obligation to provide the tools for all students to achieve their greatest potential. The rising number of students who take, and pass, the Advanced Placement courses demonstrates that we are on the right track in achieving that goal.

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