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Why AP Courses Matter

In 2007, ExxonMobil led the way in helping establish the National Math and Science Initiative (NMSI) to train teachers and prepare students for careers in the STEM disciplines of science, technology, engineering and math. Today, NMSI announced the results of a unique program proven to increase high school students’ performance in college-level courses. I’ve asked NMSI CEO Sara Martinez Tucker to share the results. – Ken

The best research shows that students who pass Advanced Placement exams in high school are three times more likely to graduate from college than those who don’t. That makes sense. These students will leave high school with the skills and preparation needed to excel in rigorous, college-level work.

The statistic also explains why NMSI focuses great effort on boosting enrollment in AP courses. In six years, our program has expanded its reach to 551 schools in 22 states, improving the lives of over two million students who have had the opportunity to learn from a NMSI-trained AP or pre-AP instructor.

America needs proven programs such as NMSI because our nation has a lot of ground to make up.

In recent testing, American students ranked 17th in the world in science and 25th in math. Those disturbing numbers do not bode well for future American competitiveness – especially considering that there are millions of jobs going unfilled in the United States today because candidates don’t have adequate skills.

But we can do better and we are doing better, which is made clear by the results of the campaign studying the impact of NMSI’s program on student performance in AP courses. Consider:

  • For the fifth straight year, students enrolled in high schools that partner with NMSI earned significantly higher scores on AP exams compared to the national average.
  • The average first year increase in the number of passing AP math, science and English scores at NMSI schools is 72 percent – 10 times the national average.
  • Over the three-year life of the NMSI program, the average increase in the number of passing scores on AP math, science and English exams is 144 percent, compared to 23.2 percent nationally.
  • The number of passing scores achieved by the program’s female students on AP math and science exams over the three-year program also tripled – a significant stride in addressing the gender imbalance in STEM fields.

The numbers are even more impressive when it comes to minority achievement:

  • The number of African-American and Hispanic students at NMSI schools who achieved passing AP scores in math, science and English courses tripled over the three-year reporting period.
  • The average three-year increase in the number of passing math, science and English scores among minorities enrolled in the NMSI program was 219 percent compared to the national average of 48.5 percent.

Increasing AP achievement in our country is only one variable in the complex equation we have to solve if we are to increase our students’ math and science proficiency. But the continued success and growth of this program proves that, by working together, we can solve this.

To get a sense of how one Texas school district that serves a large percentage of economically disadvantaged students succeeded in improving performance, watch this inspiring video:

For more about the results of our study of Advanced Placement achievement, click here.

  • Worth a deeper look...