Thursday, December 29, 2016


There was an interesting op-ed in the Idaho Statesman the other day, from a former Advanced Placement teacher, asserting that dual credit classes are no substitute for college classes. For many Boise District alumni who have benefited from the credits they have earned from AP tests, that will come as a surprise, especially since they have earned credit for core classes at prestigious universities and colleges, and started college as second semester freshman or even as sophomores. AND they will tell you they felt well-prepared for the subsequent courses they took.

AP courses are, of course, not intended to satisfy advanced college coursework requirements in major areas. They are, instead, meant to allow students to get a head start on their college careers by passing exams that certify their competence in content knowledge in core college academic courses.

The reason we consider Advanced Placement to be the "gold standard" among college preparation programs is that students must take and pass rigorous exams which serve as a national benchmark accepted by the vast majority of colleges nationwide. About 2/3 of exams from the Boise District were judged to meet that standard in 2016. The overall Idaho percentage was 63% (60% without Boise. The national 2016 "passing" percentage was 58%.

Most students do not use AP course credit to graduate early from college. Instead, they take on double majors, add a minor area, or use the flexibility afforded by the credits they have earned to travel abroad or to ease the load as they participate in activities and sports in college.

Idaho Student AP Participation Has Grown Dramatically

Participation in Idaho's AP testing program has increased steadily since 1995, and is now almost 6 times what it was 21 years ago. These are students who took one or more exams in the given year's AP testing.

However, the Boise District's AP participation as a percentage of the statewide student count has also increased:

So when we take out Boise's numbers, we get an idea of what's happened with AP participation across the state of Idaho outside of Boise. The increase is still impressive, with over 4 times as many students participating in the program as did in 1995.

The Number of Idaho Exams has Increased Substantially, as Well

Since 1995, the number of AP exams taken in the state of Idaho has increased by over 600%.

The percentage of exams taken by Boise students steadily increased for a number of years, and has been stable since 2010. In 2016, the percentage of exams taken by Boise students was 35%. Interestingly, among 2016 Boise District seniors, just under 10% had taken 10 or more exams during their high schools careers, and almost half took 5 or more.

Here is the increase in Idaho exams when the data are considered without the Boise District. The rate of increase without Boise is almost as high as it is when Boise's exams are included - a sign of a healthy, growing program around the state.

Next on the blog - which districts and high schools lead the way in AP, and who is making great progress?