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Advancement Placement High School classes growing in popularity

Dan Boyce

The number of Montana High School students taking Advanced Placement classes fell slightly in 2013, but the overall trend is up considerably in the last ten years.

Statistics released Tuesday by College Board, the non-profit which runs the AP program, shows about a two-percent decrease in students leaving high school having taken an AP exam between the class of 2012 and 2013.

Credit College Board

Yet, comparing 2013 to the figures from 10 years earlier, the state Office of Public Instruction (OPI) notes a 38-percent increase in the AP participation rate for graduating seniors. In that same period, the number of students passing their AP exams and earning college credit increased by 29-percent.

OPI Chief of Staff Madalyn Quinlan said the jump can be attributed to more school districts offering more AP classes and more high school teachers receiving training to conduct the courses. She said the most-taken AP courses in the state include:

  • English Language
  • English Literature
  • US History
  • US Government
  • Calculus

The College Board report estimates the potential cost savings at $1.9 million for 2013 students passing AP exams who otherwise would have had to take those classes in college.
Bozeman High School offers the most AP courses, at 17 different classes. Three other schools offer 10 courses or more: Helena High School, Glacier High School in Kalispell, and Sentinel High School in Missoula.

Quinlan said the primary limiting factor in growing the number of students who take AP courses is the training teachers need to offer them. She said OPI used to provide summer institutes for teachers to get certified as AP instructors.

“We haven’t had the resources to do that for some time now and that may be something we look for is support from the legislature to bring back,” Quinlan said.

Based on PSAT scores, also tabulated by College Board, at least 1,353 more students from the class of 2013 could have been successful in AP classes.

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