AP test numbers are up in Howard County, but so are participation gaps among minority students

More Howard County high school students took Advanced Placement exams last year than in 2016, but demographic gaps between student groups that participate in the testing have widened.

In the past two years, the number of exams taken by Howard students increased by nearly 800, from 10,541 in 2016 to 11,331 exams in 2018, according to data released by the school system Tuesday.


However, the gap between the highest participating student group, Asian students, and the lowest participating student group, Black students, widened by nearly 2 percent over that period, from 33.5 percent to 35 percent.

The percentage of high school seniors in Maryland who scored a 3 or higher on one or more AP test reached 31.6 percent last year.

AP test participation rates for students enrolled in Howard’s free and reduced meals program dipped slightly, by 0.4 percent. Students enrolled in FARMs can receive 44 percent off the cost of each AP exam they choose to take.


AP courses and exams are important because they can give students a leg up in college. Students who earn scores of 3 or higher on AP exams — out of a top score of 5 — can be awarded college course credit if their college accepts the score.

“Students who take AP courses in high school are more likely to graduate from college within four years than similar students who did not take AP courses,” according to the school system.

Howard County high school students scored a 3 or higher on 82 percent of AP exams taken, according to school system data. The 2018 percentage is “fairly stable” to previous years — about 80 percent of students in both 2016 and 2017 scored a 3 or higher on various exams.

However, Latinos and students of two or more races saw the numbers of those receiving a 3 or higher decrease by 1.3 percent and 2 percent, respectively. Students enrolled in the FARM program scores also went down; those who received a 3 or higher decreased by 4.9 percent.

The school system’s AP Program seeks ways to encourage participation and performance in AP tests through various strategies. One strategy is having all ninth graders take the Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test, or PSAT, and using the scores to find students who could benefit in being “appropriately challenged” by AP classes.

The county school system announced Monday that all four of its “inclement weather make-up days” have been used and as a result all schools will be in session until June 21.

The top five AP tests taken were U.S. Government & Politics, English Language & Composition, Calculus AB, Psychology and World History. For the students in these five classes, 69 percent of them took the corresponding exam.

With the class of 2018, 73.7 percent of students took at least one AP course and of those, 57.9 percent took at least one AP exam in their high school career, according to school system data.

The total percentage of Maryland high school graduates taking at least one AP test while in school remains at nearly 50 percent, according to state data. In 2018, 27,387 graduating seniors took an AP exam.

Bryant Woods school partners with St. John United

Bryant Woods Elementary School and St. John United Church, both in Columbia, recently partnered on a program designed to help build relationships among students, families, staff and community members, as well as promote inclusiveness.

Through the partnership, church representatives will participate in the elementary school’s events for the first day of school. Church members will also provide school supplies, donate gift and food items during the holidays and conduct clothing drives.

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