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More Hawaii students faring well in AP college-prep courses

The number of Hawaii public school students taking Advanced Placement exams continued to climb this year along with the number of students scoring well on the college preparatory tests, according to results released this afternoon.

The number of students who took at least one AP exam last school year increased to 5,958 students, up by 6 percent, or 327 students, from the year before. In total, these students took 8,972 AP exams, up from 8,270 exams the previous year.

Hawaii’s year-over-year growth exceeded the national public schools average for both number of students taking exams (5.3 percent growth nationally) and total tests taken (5 percent growth nationally).

All but one of the state’s public high schools offer various AP courses, which are modeled after college classes, according to the Department of Education. Students can also take the advanced courses online through the DOE’s e-School.

The corresponding exams for the courses are scored on a five-point scale. Colleges and universities use the scores to determine if a student will receive college credit for the coursework or be allowed to skip the equivalent course once enrolled in college, a practice known as advanced placement. On the test, a 3 signifies “qualified;” a 4 signifies “well qualified;” and a 5 signifies “extremely well qualified,” according to the College Board, which administers the AP program.

The number of Hawaii students scoring a 3 or higher last school year increased by more than 7 percent to 3,634 students. Nationally, the year-over-year growth was 5 percent among public school students.

“That significant increase is a testament to the hard work and commitment of Hawaii’s students, parents, teachers, and education leaders, all of whom deserve commendation for this great achievement,” Scott Hill, a vice president at the College Board, said in a statement. “We will continue to partner with Hawaii educators to ensure that all students ready for the challenge of AP are able to access those opportunities.”

The DOE says the push behind expanding opportunities for students to take AP courses and exams is part of a range of efforts to increase college and career readiness. Over the last four years, the number of exams taken by DOE students has increased by 26 percent, while the number of passing scores has increased by 29 percent.

“Growth is crucial for our public schools and these results show promising systemwide improvement as we continue to raise the rigor and prepare our students for post-high school endeavors,” schools Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi said in a statement. “These gains also reflect the hard work and professional development being done by our educators to prepare for and teach these college-level courses.”

Since 2012, the state has received grants from the U.S. Department of Education to subsidize test fees for low-income students. The DOE last year received $114,168.

“These grants have been a tremendous help in making sure that we are able to provide college and career readiness opportunities for all of our students,” Matayoshi said. “For many of them, earning college credits at no cost in high school will help with the financial burden associated with completing a post-secondary degree.”

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