The drive to improve college readiness in Harford County Public Schools includes boosting student participation in rigorous Advanced Placement exams. For 2012, the school system has reported that exam participation soared, rising 20% over last year to a total of 1,824 students, despite high school enrollment that was flat overall. Test results also improved, with 64% of the exams taken in HCPS earning a passing score, up four percentage points from 2011. At a special celebration planned for Monday, November 12th, Harford Schools Superintendent Robert Tomback plans a surprise announcement regarding Advanced Placement achievement in HCPS. In the meantime, here’s a closer look at some 2012 results, including reports from the high school near you.
About Advanced Placement (AP)
The College Board develops Advanced Placement exams and offers them nationwide each May in over 30 subjects including English, calculus, history, foreign languages, sciences and the arts. Because AP exams test high school students on a college level, those who pass the benchmark for mastery can earn college credit, depending on the college they plan to attend.
In preparation for the exams, AP subjects are taught in high school by specially qualified teachers using course content approved by the College Board. Students can take AP classes and exams in more than one subject. However, students who take an AP class are not required to take the corresponding AP exam.
AP Subjects Offered in HCPS
According to data provided to The Dagger by HCPS, a total of 27 AP subjects were offered among the ten county high schools in the 2011-12 school year, although not all subjects were offered in all schools.
C. Milton Wright High School offered the greatest number of AP subjects (22) followed by Aberdeen (19); the fewest were offered at Harford Technical High School (4), Edgewood (13), and Havre de Grace (13). The number of AP subjects offered in a school depends on student interest and teacher availability, among other factors.
Test Me: AP Exams Taken in HCPS
Since testing is optional, not all students who take an AP class take the corresponding exam. Likely to opt out are students who don’t expect to score high enough to earn college credit. But there are other reasons students skip the test. Not all colleges grant credit for passing AP exams, and some students take AP subjects without college credit in mind. They may take an AP class for the challenge alone, or to boost their high school grade point average (grades earned in AP classes have a higher point value than non-AP grades). Lastly, because the College Board charges a fee of $89 per exam, cost can be a barrier, although fee waivers are available for students living in poverty.
In the 2011-12 school year, HCPS students enrolled in AP subjects chose to be tested 64% of the time. AP students at Joppatowne High and Edgewood High took the exams most often. At each of these schools, students enrolled in AP subjects opted to take the related exams 78% of the time. AP students took the exams least often at Fallston and Patterson Mill, taking the exams 53% of the time.
Among the AP exams taken in HCPS, 64% earned a passing score in 2012. The highest average passing rates were found at C. Milton Wright (79%) and Bel Air (71%) high schools. The lowest were at Joppatowne (34%) and Edgewood (41%).
Most Popular AP Subjects in HCPS
World History, U.S. History and Psychology topped off the list of most popular AP classes in HCPS, ranked by student enrollment. Among the subjects with more than 100 students enrolled, the highest rates of test-taking were found in English Language & Composition (80%) and U.S. Government (75%). Students took the exams least often in Biology (48%) and Human Geography (53%).
Passing rates among the most popular subjects ranged from a high of 82.5% in Human Geography to a low of 51% in U.S. History.
Below is a chart of the most popular AP subjects in HCPS, compiled by The Dagger from data provided by HCPS. The chart includes the total number of students enrolled in each AP subject; the number and percentage of AP enrolled students who took the corresponding exam, and the percentage of those exams earning a passing score.
Please note: Students may take more than one AP class—HCPS counts each class as a separate enrollment.
Source: HCPS data compiled by The Dagger
AP Results by High School
Below are the AP results at each Harford County high school, provided to The Dagger from HCPS. Please note: To protect student privacy, whenever AP courses or exams were taken by fewer than five students, exact figures were not provided by HCPS. Instead, the data boxes on the chart below were colored yellow. Blank (white) boxes indicate where AP subjects were not offered at all in certain schools. No AP subjects were offered in the Center for Educational Opportunity (CEO) alternative education program. Please remember that students may take more than one AP class; HCPS counts each class as a separate enrollment.