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Rhode Island Leads Nation with Largest Improvement in AP Pass Rates

Ten-year growth rate of 14.4% is nearly double the national average

PROVIDENCE, RI – Governor Dan McKee, Commissioner Angélica Infante-Green, and the College Board announced that after the state began to reward high schools offering college-credit courses, Rhode Island saw the largest improvement in Advanced Placement (AP) pass rates of any state in the nation. AP courses, managed by the College Board, are college-level classes that students can take in high school. Students who earn a three or higher (out of five possible points) on the AP test earn college credits at most colleges. Rhode Island has also more than doubled the AP participation rate since 2010.

“I’m so proud of our students,” said Governor Dan McKee. “Given all of the challenges during the past year – for them to have the largest improvement in AP pass rates in the nation is truly remarkable. These results are proof that when you give our students an opportunity and the resources to be successful – they thrive. While there is still much more work to do, we have come a long way over the last decade and Rhode Island is just getting started. I look forward to investing in our students, improving our schools, and continuing to rise in these rankings in the years to come.”

The national results were announced in a College Board report on the 2020 AP exam results this month. Rhode Island had the largest improvement in AP pass rates of any state over the past 10 years, past 5 years, and past year. 25.2% of Rhode Island’s graduating class of 2020 passed at least one AP exam, more than doubling the state’s 10.8% pass rate from 2010. This 10-year growth of 14.4 percentage points is nearly double the national average growth of 8.2 percentage points. Only the District of Columbia showed greater improvement in pass rates over the same periods.

“In Rhode Island, we are committed to graduating students with the skills they need for college and career success,” said Commissioner Infante-Green. “The increase in both participation and performance should be viewed as clear indicators that our approach is working. Our school leaders, principals, and educators should be incredibly proud of their impact in increasing learning and improving outcomes in our classrooms.”

This long-term growth continued in spite of the pandemic. While most other states saw either no improvement or a drop in their pass rates from 2019 to 2020, Rhode Island led all other states with a 2.9% improvement.

Rhode Island’s long-term improvement and efforts to make AP tests more accessible has propelled it to the top half of states on key metrics. In 2020, for the first time ever, Rhode Island’s AP exam pass rate of 25.2%, surpassed the national average pass rate, 24.4%. Additionally, Rhode Island has more than doubled its student participation in AP exams from 17.5% for the class of 2010 to 40.5% for the class of 2020—beating the national average of 38.3%.

This shift in both access and in the performance of Rhode Island students coincides with Rhode Island’s decision to reward schools and measure postsecondary outcomes like Advanced Placement scores, dual enrollment courses, and career and technical education through the Diploma Plus measure in school accountability. Diploma Plus recognizes high schools for the percentage of students who graduate with a diploma plus college credit or industry-recognized credentials.

The improvements in AP participation are particularly promising in light of new research that shows that enrollment in a college-credit high school course improved Rhode Island students’ outcomes through both high school and college. The study, which was commissioned by the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute for Educational Sciences, showed that public high school students who participate in at least one dual enrollment class, concurrent enrollment class, or AP class are 21% more likely to graduate from high school on time, 30% more likely to enroll in postsecondary education within one year of graduating, and are statistically significantly more likely to avoid developmental, remedial coursework at the three public colleges in Rhode Island.

Early college opportunities in Rhode Island are supported by the PrepareRI dual enrollment fund, the All Course Network, CS4RI, TwoCodes, and PrepareRI, as well as being supported by LEA-specific policies. To learn more about the state’s early college opportunities please visit the RIDE website here.