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California Department of Education
News Release
Release: #18-16
February 21, 2018
Contact: Scott Roark
Phone: 916-319-0818

California Ranks 5th Nationally in Advanced Placement® Exam Scores for the Third Year in a Row

SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced that for the third year in a row, California students placed fifth in the nation in the percentage of high school graduates who earned a score of three or more on an end-of-course Advanced Placement ® (AP) exam, which earns them college credit.

In 2017, 30.3 percent of California graduates scored at least a 3 out of 5 on an AP exam during high school, compared to 28.5 percent in 2016. Nationally, the average in 2017 was 22.8 percent. In the last five years, the percentage of California students demonstrating success on AP exams has increased by more than 7.5 percentage points.

"Our students have once again made California a national leader in passing rigorous Advanced Placement exams, reflecting progress our state has made in our mission of preparing students for college and careers,” Torlakson said. “These results show how hard our educators, parents, and students are working on key elements of academic success—providing access to rigorous courses, challenging students to take these courses, and providing students the help they need to succeed.”

Success in AP courses is one measure of pupil achievement, which is one of eight state priorities contained in the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), a policy that guides development of each district’s Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP).

“Like our steadily rising high school graduation rate and record-high college eligibility rates, the increase in AP test taking—and passing shows that our state’s unprecedented commitment to continuous improvement is paying off,” said California State Board of Education President Michael W. Kirst. “Our educators are working hard to ensure that students have the skills they need to succeed after high school and we are seeing increasing college and career readiness as a result.”

One example is Lynwood Unified School District, which has seen significant growth in AP exam participation. In 2013, 427 students took an AP exam and 158 passed. In 2017 that number nearly doubled, with 835 students taking AP exams and 296 passed. District initiatives have included teacher training to support AP students, additional support outside school hours, access to online tutoring courses, and allocating district funds to cover the cost of AP exams for students. Approximately 96 percent of the district’s students come from low-income households; 92 percent of them said they plan to attend a four-year college after graduation; and 75 percent would be the first in their families to do so.

“The efforts of the Lynwood Unified School District have made a difference in the lives of thousands of students, opening the door for success in college and helping them further their educational and career goals,” Torlakson said.

California continues to outpace the national average in advancing opportunities for students who come from low-income families. Of the 58.7 percent of the state's K–12 students eligible for the free or reduced-price lunch program in the Class of 2017, 45.5 percent took at least one AP exam. Nationally, 51.8 percent of U.S. public school students were low income, and 30.3 percent of them took at least one AP exam.

In addition, California students have made tremendous gains in technical proficiency. In 2007, California had 2,921 students who took an AP Computer Science exam; by 2016 that number had grown to 10,244. After the launch of AP Computer Science Principles a year later, that number grew to 18,718. The number of students scoring a 3 or higher on an AP Computer Science exam in 2007 was 1,802; in 2016 it was 1,802 and by 2017, that number had markedly increased to 13,481 students.

The following 34 school districts from California were named to the College Board's Eighth Annual AP District Honor Roll for expanding access to AP and increasing the percentages of students scoring a 3 or higher on AP exams:

  • Alvord Unified
  • Arcadia Unified*
  • Calaveras Unified
  • Capistrano Unified
  • Carlsbad Unified*
  • Ceres Unified
  • Claremont Unified
  • Colusa Unified
  • Cotati-Rohnert Park Unified
  • Desert Sands Unified
  • Diocese of Sacramento Education Office*
  • Dublin Unified*
  • Folsom-Cordova Unified
  • Garden Grove Unified
  • Glendora Unified*
  • Gustine Unified
  • Las Virgenes Unified*
  • Mammoth Unified*
  • Marysville Joint Unified
  • Mendota Unified
  • Milpitas Unified*
  • Pacific Grove Unified
  • Palm Springs Unified*
  • Palmdale School District
  • Palo Alto Unified*
  • Paramount Unified
  • Piedmont Unified
  • Placentia-Yorba Linda Unified*
  • Roseland School District
  • San Leandro Unified
  • San Mateo Union High School District
  • San Ramon Valley Unified*
  • Santa Ana Unified*
  • Tustin Unified
  • Williams Unified

(*District has achieved the honor for multiple years).

For more information on the operation of the College Board's AP program in California, please visit the CDE AP Web page.

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Tom Torlakson — State Superintendent of Public Instruction
Communications Division, Room 5602, 916-319-0818, Fax 916-319-0100

Last Reviewed: Friday, August 23, 2019
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