AP exam participation increases among Utah public school students

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ST. GEORGE — Some 26,912 Utah public school students took at least one Advanced Placement exam this year, an increase of 1.4 percent from 2017.

The percentage of Utah public school students who scored a 3, 4 or 5 on AP exams increased from 67 percent to 68.6 percent, according to data released this week by College Board.

The increase in student participation was fueled by large percentage increases among students who identify as Hispanic or Latino (up 9.2 percent or 259 students from 2017), Asian (up 2.6 percent or 24 students) and black (up 14.6 percent or 23 students).

Participation decreased among students who identify as American Indian (down 1.3 percent or 1 student), white (down 0.1 percent or 16 students) and Pacific Islander (down 18.1 percent or 26 students).

College Board also noted 895 Utah public school students took the SAT college entrance exam in 2018. This is up from 836 in 2017.

Scores in the Evidence-based Reading and Writing portion rose to 640 from 630 the previous year, while mathematics scores dropped to 635 from 640 the previous year. Total scores were 1,275 this year compared to 1,269 in 2017. All Utah public school students are offered the ACT college entrance exam. Few take the SAT, and many of them plan to attend colleges or universities on either the east or west coast.

“I am pleased to see Utah’s AP participation more closely match the demographics of the students in our schools,” state Superintendent of Public Instruction Sydnee Dickson said. “Those of us in public education are working as a team with parents to prepare each student for success in the future. These AP results show that we’re doing better at meeting that goal.”

AP exam taking patterns appear to show some success both for Utah’s Dual Language Immersion Initiative and increased emphasis on computer science in the classroom. The Dual Language Immersion Initiative began offering funding for foreign language immersion programs for Utah elementary schools in 2009.

The program continues to expand and is now available in 195 schools and includes Chinese, French, German, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish programs. The youngest students from dual immersion classes are now in high school and have begun taking AP exams in some of those languages. College Board data shows the following:

  • 194 students taking the AP Chinese Language and Culture exam up from 43 in 2017, a 351 percent increase.
  • 232 students taking the AP French Language and Culture exam up from 98 in 2017, a 137 percent increase.
  • 1,300 students taking the AP Spanish Language and Culture exam, up from 929 in 2017, a 40 percent increase.

Utah is also encouraging more students to study information technology and computer programming. In 2018, 247 students took the AP exam in Computer Science Principles, an increase of 87 students over 2017 or a 54 percent increase.

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