AUGUSTA, Maine — The College Board reported that Maine experienced the largest single-year increase in the percentage of students scoring a 3 or better on at least one Advanced Placement exam, the state Department of Education said Wednesday.
A score of 3 or above is predictive of college success, according to the College Board’s fifth annual AP Report to the Nation, released this month.
Maine also was among the top six states for their three-year increases in the percentage of students scoring at least a 3 on an AP exam.
“The increase in students scoring well in Maine is great news, but the scores alone are not what’s important,” said state Education Commissioner Susan Gendron. “It’s about the rigor of the courses and more students taking AP courses. Students who take AP courses are better prepared for college. Also, colleges look at AP courses as evidence of readiness for postsecondary studies.”
New research indicates that AP students are more likely to earn a bachelor’s degree after four years than non-AP peers, according to the Maine Department of Education. Furthermore, students scoring 3 or above on an AP exam tend to achieve greater academic success and graduate from college at higher rates than their peers.
During their high school tenure, 19.3 percent of the Class of 2008 in Maine earned a 3 or higher on one or more AP exams, compared to 15.2 percent for the nation. This was an increase in Maine from 17.3 percent last year and 13.5 percent in the class of 2003.
Overall participation in AP exams was even higher. In Maine, 31.9 percent of the public high school Class of 2008 took at least one AP exam during high school, compared to 25 percent for the nation. The state Department of Education said it has worked with schools to increase participation in AP courses.
“These are the same students who take the AP course in high school. If they score high on those, colleges give them credit when they enroll,” said David Connerty-Marin, spokesman for the department. “More importantly, it prepares them for college work and allows them, in some cases, to bypass introductory courses. The biggest thing is evidence that these rigorous courses prepare these students for college.”
Maine schools are also succeeding in eliminating the equity gap in participation and achievement by race, ethnicity, and income, the department said. The percentage of Hispanic-Latino and American Indian students scoring a 3 or higher was at least as high as their percentage of the student population. The equity gap for Black and African-American students in Maine has not yet been closed, the department said.
In the Class of 2008, 508 low-income Maine students took at least one AP exam compared to 401 in the Class of 2007 and 254 in the Class of 2003. The number of low-income students scoring a 3 or above also increased over the three years.
The most popular AP subject exam in Maine was English literature (1,746 exams), followed by U.S. history and English language. Students also took AP exams in calculus, biology, statistics, chemistry, European history, psychology, and U.S. government and politics.