PED, governor tout rise in AP test participation - Albuquerque Journal

PED, governor tout rise in AP test participation

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PED Secretary-designate Christopher Ruszkowski, right, chats with a group of high-performing Rio Rancho High seniors Wednesday before discussing students’ success with AP classes throughout New Mexico. (Marla Brose/Albuquerque Journal)

Copyright © 2018 Albuquerque Journal

More New Mexico students are taking rigorous Advanced Placement classes than ever before, according to data released by the state Public Education Department on Wednesday.

PED reported that 19,526 students enrolled in AP classes in 2017.

And these students took roughly 17,000 AP exams during 2017, up from 15,700 in 2016 and 10,500 in 2010.

Students are also succeeding on the difficult college-level tests at a higher rate – about 6,000 AP exams were passed in 2017, a 38 percent increase compared to 2010.

Gov. Susana Martinez celebrated the progress Wednesday during a news conference at Rio Rancho High, one of the state’s top performers in AP classes.

“I’m so proud of our students for stepping up and taking some of the most challenging high school courses possible,” Martinez said. “When our students succeed in Advanced Placement classes, they show that they can succeed in a college classroom. New Mexico students are once again proving that when we set high standards and give them challenging opportunities, they will always rise to the occasion.”

AP courses give high school students a chance to earn college credits in a wide variety of subjects, potentially reducing the time and money it takes to finish a college degree.

At an average of more than $200 per credit hour, New Mexico students’ AP classes could save them as much as $4.26 million in college tuition costs.

Anna Smith, a Rio Rancho High senior, has already taken seven AP classes, and she’s enrolled in three more this year: statistics, macroeconomics and physics.

In the summer, she will move to Massachusetts to attend Worcester Polytechnic Institute, which offered her a generous scholarship.

“Advanced Placement classes have really allowed me to think outside the box,” she said. “I’ve had the opportunity to get many college credits, and these advanced placement classes look good to colleges and universities.”

Smith said she benefitted from the state’s test fee assistance program, which cuts the cost of an AP exam from $93 to $3 for students with financial need.

Last year, 4,707 New Mexico students, nearly half of all AP exam takers, received reduced price tests.

PED has recommended doubling the state investment in the fee waivers from $865,000 to $1.7 million.

In total, the state allocated more than $10 million last year to support AP programs across New Mexico.

Additionally, New Mexico now offers more AP teacher training, and is expanding online AP course offerings to boost rural students’ access.

“It’s all about improving student outcomes and making a difference in students’ lives,” said PED Secretary-designate Christopher Ruszkowski. “The fact that we are a state here in New Mexico that is increasing access to Advanced Placement and increasing success – the number of kids earning 3’s (passing test scores) or better – is something very, very, very few states in the country have been able to pull off.”

Ruszkowski complimented the governor for stepping up to cover AP test fees after the federal government discontinued its own fee waiver program in 2016. Within 24 hours, Martinez had found funding to maintain the $3 test price for low-income students, Ruszkowski said.

“I believe she (Martinez) is the finest public education governor in the country,” he said. “It’s an honor to work for a governor who doesn’t just talk about raising the bar, and talk about setting high expectations. She actually sets the high expectations in everything that we do at the Public Education Department.”

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Rio Rancho High sophomores listen to PED Secretary-designate Christopher Ruszkowski Wednesday as he discusses student success with AP classes throughout New Mexico. (Marla Brose/Albuquerque Journal)

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