Good news: More students in Georgia taking AP classes and more doing well on the exams

The other day, David S. asked if there was ever good news about Georgia schools. There is good news and here’s some of it.  We are doing better on AP tests, even while encouraging more students to take the rigorous courses and to sit for the AP exams, which are administered and graded by the College Board.

Here is the official release:

Gov. Sonny Perdue and State School Superintendent Brad Bryant today announced Georgia’s 2009-10 Advanced Placement (AP) results. Since the 2004-2005 school year, Georgia has seen a 97 percent increase in students scoring a 3, 4 or 5 on AP exams, compared to a 52 percent increase nationwide.

The six-year trend also shows Georgia has experienced a 106 percent increase in the number of AP public school test-takers, compared to a 56 percent increase nationwide.

“More and more Georgia students are meeting the challenge by taking and passing tough AP classes and exams,” Gov. Perdue said. “These tests often lead to earning college credits, which enable our students to enter college well prepared for advanced coursework.”

From 2009 to 2010, Georgia increased the percentage of AP public school test-takers by 13.4 percent compared to 9.5 percent nationwide, according to information recently released by the College Board.  Georgia’s students also showed tremendous gains in the percentage of students scoring a 3, 4, or 5 on the AP exams (11.4 percent compared to 8.3 percent nationwide).

Colleges and universities may award college credit for AP exams completed with a score of three or higher.

“Georgia’s teachers and school leaders continue to step up and offer the rigorous curriculum that AP provides,” said Superintendent Bryant. “The increase in the number of students taking AP courses and scoring a 3, 4, or 5 demonstrates that more of our students are graduating from high school prepared for whatever they chose to do, whether that’s college or a career.”

Georgia’s minority students demonstrated significant participation and performance increase on AP exams in May 2010 compared to May 2009.  Over the last year, African-American and Hispanic AP test-takers increased 19.2 percent and 29.3 percent, respectively, compared to the national increase of 13.9 percent for African-American test-takers and 15.3 percent for Hispanic test-takers. Georgia’s minority student AP performance also overshadowed the performance of their national counterparts, with a 15.2 percent increase in AP exam scores of 3 or higher for African-American Georgia test-takers, and a 33.3 percent increase for Hispanic Georgia test-takers, compared to 12.5 percent and 13.6 percent, respectively, for the nation.

This growth has been consistent. Since the 2004-2005 school year, African-American and Hispanic AP test-takers increased 147 percent and 273 percent, respectively, compared to the national increase of 113 percent for African-American test-takers and 90 percent for Hispanic test-takers.

Georgia’s minority student AP performance also saw remarkable gains. African-American test-takers saw a 153 percent increase in AP exam scores of 3 or higher (compared to 100 percent nationwide) and a 242 percent increase for Hispanic Georgia test-takers (compared to 76 percent nationwide.)

“As we continue to tackle the achievement gap, I am very encouraged by the increase in minority students taking AP courses and excelling,” said Superintendent Bryant. “Results have shown time and again that students who are exposed to more rigorous coursework are better prepared for college and the workforce.”

56 comments Add your comment


September 30th, 2010
3:01 pm

No one says Georgia doesn’t have some bright kids. It’s the majority BELOW the stellar students that are the drag.

Eddie Longs Cadillac

September 30th, 2010
3:17 pm

As long as another cheating scandal is uncovered then all is well. Until then…BBBUUUWWWWAAAAHHHHHAAAA-HAHAHAHAA!!!


September 30th, 2010
4:29 pm

You know Maureen, you can get statistics to say anything you want them to say. Those Black and Hispanic test takers, I would imagine, were in the upper echelon so these statistics mean absolutely nothing……just some more political BC (that’s Buffalo Chips) in care anyone’s wondering. Surely you didn’t buy into this?????

Attentive Parent

September 30th, 2010
4:34 pm

This would be more impressive if I had not just finished reading a new federal report that bragged on page 114 that the College Board is in the process of changing its AP curriculum and exams to make them more compatible with how women and underrepresented minorities are believed to learn best.

Unlike the 1995 renorming of the SAT, I don’t think they were planning on publicizing the changes.

This is how we will make more “college and career ready” too-dumb down the essence of what is to be required.

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by good, Maureen Downey. Maureen Downey said: Good news: More students in Georgia taking AP classes and more doing well on the exams [...]


September 30th, 2010
6:18 pm

Your article does not discriminate between the scoring of students at public vs. private/parochial schools, although, since the data for taking the tests is so segregated, I have to think that the score data is as well. My son, who graduated from Grady, and my daughter, who graduated from St. Pius, both took AP exams but the preparation from the schools was worlds apart – and so were the scores. It’s good that students, both public and private, are increasingly challenging themselves, but not so good if those efforts are not complemented by strong support from the schools.

David Sims

September 30th, 2010
6:26 pm

@Maureen and Attentive Parent. What she said. The 1995 changes on the SAT were called Recentering, and it basically had the following effects on SAT scores:

* A test-taker no longer had to answer all of the questions correctly to get a perfect score. That meant the SAT no longer could tell between the “pretty good” and the “very best.”

* A student having a mean score of 960, typical of White students in 1994, got another 100 points unearned.

* A student having a mean score of 730, typical of Black students in 1994, got another 130 points unearned.

That’s how they reduced the “gaps” in 1995. By a doggone cheat in the scoring procedure. It does sound like the same sort of thing is about to happen again.

GA Teach

September 30th, 2010
6:36 pm

Just so everyone understands…..AP in Georgia is open to any student that wants to take AP. The US Newsweek rating is based on AP and IB… most schools have an open door policy for AP classes…..

GA Teach

September 30th, 2010
6:38 pm

All they did to the AP test is change how the raw score is counted…..they are going to look at the total raw score instead of taking away the 1/4 point for every wrong answer.


September 30th, 2010
6:47 pm

Look behind the scenes, ask questions, when you have information that goes counter to the accepted, CHECK INTO IT and find out why that might be!


September 30th, 2010
6:48 pm

Top university programs are also expecting students to be taking these AP and IB classes. My daughter graduated last year and her university recognized over 30 units from AP classes based on the test scores. All of the admissions officers (five universities spread across the U.S.) told her that they weren’t even considering students that hadn’t taken AP or BI classes. Grade inflation and inconsistency made the AP exam score a better method for comparison.

David Sims

September 30th, 2010
6:55 pm

Oops. Sorry. I was thinking averages, while speaking of individual’s test scores.

I wrote:
“A student having a mean score of ___”

I should have written:
“A student having a combined math and verbal score of ___”

David Sims

September 30th, 2010
7:15 pm

Even before Recentering in 1995, there was already a hide-the-gap cheat in the way the SAT was scored. I’ve come to call it “Front-Loading.” In each part (back then: Math and Verbal) a student received his first 200 point free, meaning that just for showing up he got a combined score of 400 points. His official “score” from the SAT I included these unearned 400 points. What he actually earned by answering the questions was his official score MINUS those 400 points.

The effect of that on racial gaps should be obvious. The unearned part of the SAT I combined score was a larger fraction of the total for Blacks than it was for Whites.

THEN came Recentering, again artificially cheating the gaps narrower.

Ole Guy

September 30th, 2010
7:36 pm

I’m still trying to figure out how the HOPE recipient, ostensibly with the higher-than-average hs academic standing, is obliged to take remedials. If kids are doing well on the SATs, that’s great. However, one cannot help but have a sneakin suspicion that statistical manipulation in order to garner good political news might be at play here.

Years ago, when Brand X airline was in the process of reorganizing, there was a degree of public concern that the pilots were too young and too inexperienced to provide safe transport. In order to diminish this fear/concern, management countered that the AVERAGE age/experience of the line pilots were not too far from that of well-established carriers. It was later determined that the AVERAGES, over at good ole Brand X, were comprised of the extremes…a bunch of “250 hour aces” fresh outa the FBO/Fixed Base Operator from which flying lessons were offered, and a bunch of ole farts who probably soloed back in the days of the “steam-powered” aeroplane.



September 30th, 2010
7:44 pm

Some people on here never see the positive.

Yes, any student can take the test. At my school, we encourage it and part of our goals are centered around every student eventually taking an AP class. Does that change the curriculum? No. That is firmly set by the College Board, not the individual school. Does it make it harder on individual teachers? Yes. There is more differentiation within AP classes, but each student is still measured by the exact same test across the country.

How that translates to dumbing down the curriculum, I don’t know. We, nor our students, are robots, and to see that kind of gain especially among the populations who historically do not perform highly is encouraging. Thanks, Maureen. It is nice to see some encouraging news.


September 30th, 2010
7:59 pm

Lies, Damn lies, and statistics.

another comment

September 30th, 2010
8:01 pm

I was talking to a Marist parent the other day, and she told me that kids from Marist were taking the AP exams more than once to make sure that they ended up with scores of 3 or better.

I was telling her that in a Cobb County High School as a freshman my daughter had taken an AP class and was one of two students that had and A in the class, yet she only scored a 2 on the AP exam. Most of the students only got 1’s with a few others getting 2’s. My daughter said one kid claimed get a 5, but no one beleived him. The friend told me at Marist they don’t let freshman take AP classes and then, if you don’t score a 3 or above they encourage you to have your child take the AP exam again the next year. She also told me she had a list of all the best tutors for all of the Tests, AP, SAT, AC, Subject matter, just $75 hr. Her son’s SAT scores had gone up 200 points since using the $75 hr tutor.

My daughter’s Cobb County High School, which is not the top one, didn’t bother to tell us about taking the AP exam a second time, or getting a tutor for it. Which to me is alot cheaper than paying for college credits. But then again My child has higher expectations than Georgia Southern, West Georgia, Albany State, or one of the other ones that most of the grads from her high school end up.

David Sims

September 30th, 2010
8:10 pm

@PLC. It is possible for a uniform test to be dumbed down. The creators of the uniform test would simply make the questions easier, make their answers more obvious or requiring less thought to produce. The dumbing down would take place everywhere at once, which means that all the students scores would rise everywhere at once, while gaps between the slower student groups and the smarter ones would be reduced everywhere at once. That might be mistaken for good educational reforms. In fact, that result might be intended to be so mistaken. A nationally uniform test would leave no signal-flag areas in which a different, unweakened test provided a comparison that would reveal that the rise elsewhere was not the result of good reform.


September 30th, 2010
9:00 pm

My child took two AP courses as a sophomore at a Cobb County public high school in 2009-2010, and scored 5 on both exams. I was pleased and thought the school was doing a good job. But I suspect most bloggers here would say I’m deluded because AP exams are so dumbed down they count for nothing, nowadays. Unless of course it’s a private school student who gets good scores on AP exams, in which case AP exam scores are highly respectable evidence that private schools are better than public schools.

Former Middle School Teacher

September 30th, 2010
9:31 pm

I teach both AP and IB and I can assure you the tests are not “dumbed down” They both offer rigorous exams that are externally moderated, it becomes pretty clear if the students were exposed to the proper curriculum, by the way I teach in a public school.

Attentive Parent

September 30th, 2010
9:49 pm

The K-12 Education on STEM report on the White House site as a Report to the President just filed says the College Board is in the process of changing the AP curriculum and exams.

With all those comma splices I hope you taught science or math.


September 30th, 2010
11:10 pm

The average acceptance to UGA this fall had between 5 and 8 AP courses during HS. If your students aren’t taking AP classes, don’t expect them to get in. My son was given 42 credit hours for his high school work, both AP and dual enrollment at GA Tech. Public high schools in GA aren’t given enough credit for the benefits they offer.

Atlanta mom

September 30th, 2010
11:19 pm

What a wonderful blog. The things we learn. I had no clue that you could take an AP exam more than once. I wonder if both scores are sent to universities?
But, don’t get me started on the college board and APs and college credits. What a farce! What a money maker for the college board.
If you are going to a state university you will get some credits, for some scores. The less discriminating the school, the more credits you will get. What’s that all about? You get a 5 in AP English and at UGA you get 6 hours of credit, at GT you get 3 hours credit.
And for those of you, not in the know, if your child goes to elite schools—no credits at all. The college board has a real racket here.


September 30th, 2010
11:20 pm

I am an AP teacher with ten years experience, plus a former reader for one of the exams. This story is good news, and the people dumping on it just don’t know what they’re talking about.

Atlanta mom

September 30th, 2010
11:22 pm

By the way, I am glad the Georgia students are doing better on the AP exams.

public school advocate

October 1st, 2010
1:08 am

I agree the public schools get very little recognition for the good things happening within their walls. My daughter attends the local public school. She has taken 4 AP courses and scored 4s or 5s on all. She is currently taking 3 AP courses and because of her excellent teachers and work ethic, I anticipate she will do well on those exams. In our public school, AP classes are open to all students. The local private school recommmends students for AP classes and it is widely known that they will not allow students to take AP classes unless they think the student will make at least a 3 on exams. My son is a sophmore at UGA and he has maintained a 3.4 GPA as well as his classmates who graduated from his high school. The local private school UGA students have all lost their HOPE because they didn’t realize how “hard” college would be. Mind you this is not an elite private school but one in a local community south of Atlanta. Many local parents are realizing that paying for private school education may actually be hindering their childrens’ opportunities. Public schools get bad publicity for all the negative things happening but rarely get credit for all the good things going on.


October 1st, 2010
6:56 am

Only in a forum like this would a group of people take GOOD NEWS and try to twist the facts into BAD NEWS.

These stats, no matter how you slice them and dice them, are representative of the good efforts of teachers and students in the state of Georgia.

Shame on all of you who try to twist a good report into something that it is not.

tell it

October 1st, 2010
7:55 am

Some much needed positive feedback.Now, what will be done for those that for whatever reason, are failing?


October 1st, 2010
8:13 am

@AJinCobb, your comments are dead on. It seems that public schools can do nothing right. In Fulton County students can begin taking AP courses in 10th grade. My child did and I can assure you the class was quite rigorous.

“My child has higher expectations than Georgia Southern, West Georgia, Albany State, or one of the other ones that most of the grads from her high school end up.”

That’s an interesting comment. My cousin attended Penn State and I graduated from West Georgia. Guess what? We’re both teachers. Good for her she was on full scholarship, but then again so was I.

First Things First

October 1st, 2010
8:21 am

I think it is great that more students in Georgia are taking AP classes. It is true that teaching ability varies among AP teachers, which is one reason why UGA makes money from whole weekends devoted to teacher training for AP instructors and grader training for the AP instructors who also grade exams for pay. The worst of the AP teachers are “teaching to the test” just like the average curriculum in K-8 in Georgia, and the kids are getting more content, but not necessarily better teaching. That said, AP classes require more thought, originality, and rigor and so are great teaching opportunities. The average student who loads up on AP courses usually can handle a college curriculum because they have learned good study skills and methods to attack complicated material. These skills have value whatever the AP score on the test is.

If more teachers had subject matter degrees (a B.S. in Math with some education courses, instead of a B.S.Ed. in Math Education with no math courses, for example), more children could get better content education whether or not they take AP classes. My daughter’s middle school science teacher has a Master’s degree in biochemistry, her math teacher has an engineering degree from Virginia Tech, and her English teacher is national board certified, with a degree from U Virginia, one of the top university programs in education. I doubt that the AP teachers in the high school she’ll attend will be more effective than her current teachers, who are insistent on fundamentals. In math, calculators are only for checking work – they have to learn computation skills; in English, compositions are written from outlines, which in turn were written from character, scene, and plot sketches; in Science, the first two weeks and first test were on the scientific method. Teachers with subject matter degrees usually have exposure to the fields of work their degrees prepare them for, and so know what the students NEED to know for success in a field, not just on a CRCT test.

Doble Zero Eight

October 1st, 2010
8:43 am

Successful completion of AP courses will significantly increase your child’s chances of acceptance in a top tier university, assuming the GPA and ACT/SAT scores are commensurate.

Dunwoody Mom

October 1st, 2010
8:53 am

How sad that there are some who denigrate any piece of good news.


October 1st, 2010
9:08 am

Our school does not offer many AP courses, however, we have students who are taking advantage of GA Virtual. Will they score high enough on the AP exam to earn college credit? Time will tell. I do think they will come out of the experience stronger students.

More students taking AP or advanced courses is a good thing. If you pull back and look at the bigger picture, the experience is what really matters. Which has more worth….an AP score of 2 or a passing/exceeds EOCT score?


October 1st, 2010
9:30 am

We have year-long AP classes instead of single semester. The content is too much to try to cram into one semester. This greatly improves the exam results, plus we don’t need tutors since the teachers have regular tutorials after school for their students who need extra help.


October 1st, 2010
10:40 am

I learned at a college fair last year that schools expect students to take AP or honors classes. Of course some schools will only want to see AP classes, however honors classes are important. From talking to recruiters, they don’t want to see students simply take the easy way out by taking regular English instead of honors or AP. I have advised my children to take what they’re most comfortable with. Unless they’re given a full scholarship, schools outside of Georgia are not an option. Why graduate with a bunch of debt. We just have too many great schools here in my opinion to choose from.

This is fantastic news for the georgia schools. I just don’t get the negative comments.


October 1st, 2010
10:59 am

AP is great, one of the best things we offer ambitious students in high school, but the sun doesn’t rise and set on it. Kids need to be especially careful about biting off more than they can chew. Rigor is to be prized, but it is a mistake for students take 3-5 AP courses at once unless they are students who are brilliant across disciplines and have an exceptional capacity to focus.

Ole Guy

October 1st, 2010
11:05 am

Hummon, PLC, and a few others: I do not believe the remarks perceived as negative, and “dumping on otherwise good news” is completely out of line. As educators, I am sure you possess unique insight into the workings…the inner-sanctum, if you will…of the SAT administration specifically, and the education process in general, of which non-ed oriented folks are simply unaware. However, as ultimate recipients of an educated work force, I am sure you can see how a healty dose of skepticism can arise from a populace which has both observed and been impacted by a work force of questionably educated young folks. In other words, to quote a popular marketing slogan of yesteryear…WHERE’S THE BEEF? Why are HOPE recipients wasting time with remedials? Why are Georgia’s young, in spite of admonishments to the contrary, being steered toward the halls of advanced academe? Performing well on AP tests is a fine thing, but just how and where is that translating into the economy; into society?

One realizes that sustainable progress, of any kind, is measured, not in leaps and bounds but in plateaus of mini-victories…and it is wonderful news to see the statistics of successes within the educational camp.

But you know…and to appear neither impatient nor unappreciative of these successes within Georgia’s education camp…I do believe we have seen these successes trumpeted before. When can we, in the non-education world, expect to see specifics of college honor grads, of young grads making inroads into promising fields of endeavor, of young folks entering the trades?

The world waits for no one; While we import talent from across the globe, we glow in accomplishments which are long long overdue.


Attentive Parent

October 1st, 2010
11:43 am

If the College Board receives revenue from each AP student and class as it does, it has an incentive to maximize the numbers taking the courses.

AP courses currently have a great reputation but the announced (although not publicized) change to make the courses and exams more inquiry oriented and less reliant on factual knowledge so as to fit better with a broader spectrum of students is a valid point for taxpayers and parents to ponder.

After all, it’s our money going to the College Board. I also have a problem with this widely expressed fallacy in education that lies behind the change-that underrepresented minorities and women need courses to be revised to reflect their unique learning styles.

I believe Ole Guy is making the point on whether higher ed degrees and the money spent to obtain them bought marketable knowledge and skills. This push to make college or AP courses accessible to students of all academic levels defies common sense, the reality of human history, and the current experience of our global competitors.

We need to always ask if the educating for all emphasis, although catchy, feel-good rhetoric, means that we will actually be educating, few, if any, adequately in the future?


October 1st, 2010
11:52 am

Maureen, it should be noted that once again, Southwest DeKalb HS has the HIGHEST number of African American students in the NATION making a 3 or higher on the AP US History Exam. I believe this is an honor that have had for the past 5-6 years. This speaks well on the instructors of that school and desire but each incoming class to work hard and see that this streak continues.

Regretfully, not many outside of the school are aware of this. I am proud of their accomplishments.

Take a look at the 2010 report and perform a search on Southwest DeKalb….


October 1st, 2010
11:54 am

Meant to say desire ‘by’ each incoming class. It goes to setting and having high expectations for the students.

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October 1st, 2010
12:46 pm

I am not sold on the AP offerings for high school students. If the student is so gifted why not allow them to finish high school early. Really advanced students don’t need 36 weeks to complete the course curriculum. In most cases, does a high school do as good a job of teaching college coursework as a college. Let them enter college earlier and complete earlier.

Attentive Parent

October 1st, 2010
12:59 pm


I’ve been in the filter at least an hour.

Also are you going to do a story on that 10:10 video showing the British teacher blowing up students who are skeptical of making changes to control carbon emissions?

Given the commitment by numerous federal agencies to push global warming indoctrination in the classroom using the science standards being developed, it’s a valid question to wonder where it will lead.

Attentive Parent

October 1st, 2010
1:46 pm

Two hours and counting.


Attentive Parent

October 1st, 2010
1:58 pm


I see the 1010 group has now apologized for anyone offended by all the gore. It’s not science if you cannot examine the facts and you see graphic murder as the response to skeptics.

How could so many famous people not have seen that this would backfire?

Maureen Downey

October 1st, 2010
1:59 pm

@attentive parent, You should be out. Maureen


October 1st, 2010
2:55 pm

@Pluto, many students are allowed to start college early while still enrolled in high school. You don’t have to be gifted to take AP classes’ simply willing to work extremely hard.


October 1st, 2010
3:27 pm

“This push to make college or AP courses accessible to students of all academic levels” does defy common sense. That’s why no one with any authority advocates it, at least where AP is concerned. That strikes me as a straw man, as does the assertion that making the courses “more inquiry oriented and less reliant on factual knowledge” is “to fit better with a broader spectrum of students.” Every news report I can find on the changes in the exam speaks about depth over breadth in course content in order to foster critical thinking, not about accommodating different learning styles. In recent years there has certainly been a push (a laudable one, in my view) to broaden the ethnic and socioeconomic mix of the population of kids taking AP courses, but the aim in that effort has been to identify kids would who would previously have been thought of as unlikely candidates for AP but who are, in fact, prepared. At my school we sought out students who had scored above the 50th %ile on the PSAT (such students have been found to have a solid chance of making a 3 or above on AP exams, we were told) and presented them with the prospect of taking AP. Some turned out to be overmatched, but none of this is an exact science. The point is that we were not in any way seeking “students of all academic levels.” Far from it. We were opening the gate a little wider, not blowing it up. The people who are for blowing it up are a small minority and I don’t think much of their arguments. However, I also have little regard for fellow AP teachers who believe their classes ought to be composed of students who are cinches to makes 4s and 5s. Take in some marginal but motivated AP students, see if you can coach them up, find out what you’re made of as a teacher! Most AP teachers I know take special pride in those 3s that were results of pedagogical heavy lifting.

Ole Guy, the outcomes of a teacher’s work are inherently not concrete, so we can’t show you the beef. Sorry! I do believe that one of the best antidotes to the problem of HOPE recipients needing remediation (which I agree is a ridiculous situation) would be more students – more PREPARED students – taking Advanced Placement courses.


October 1st, 2010
3:51 pm

Let me add that I regret using the phrase “don’t know what they’re talking about” in an earlier comment. I grouse about the incivility on these blogs, and then I say something like that! Out of line. My bad.

Attentive Parent

October 1st, 2010
6:04 pm


I never make statements on this blog or elsewhere that I do not have the documented links too. I do not blog because my life is boring and I need some company.

I raise these issues because they are important to children’s futures and you should not be basing billions in federal spending pushing bad ideas on interviews with scientists and mathematicians on childhood memories.

The AP statement is from page 114 from last week’s STEM report from the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. It was also mentioned in the DoEd and Justice Dept announcements about threatening civil rights enforcement actions against schools or districts where minority participation in AP or honors classes is disproportionate.

The statement about colleges and equal access to all levels of academic ability is from last year’s Carnegie report “The Opportunity Equation”.

I am glad you appreciate the absurdity of these propositions to the point that you think I must be wrong and building up strawmen.

No. These absurd ideas are deeply in need of the disinfectant of sunlight before we borrow billions from the Chinese to fund ideas that will harm both K-12 and the US higher ed.