Kentucky students who enroll in Advanced Placement (AP) courses in high school are better prepared for college, need little or no remediation and perform better in their postsecondary studies than students who do not take AP classes, according to data released today.

The information affirms national evidence that shows a significant and positive long-term effect for students who take AP classes in high school.

A review of Kentucky data also shows that students who enroll in AP classes at high schools in the state that are part of the AdvanceKentucky initiative earn significantly more qualifying scores on AP math, science, and English exams, which can earn a student college credit, compared to students taking the same AP courses nationwide.

For the past five years, AdvanceKentucky, a statewide math and science initiative, has expanded access to, participation in and the success rate of Kentucky students taking AP classes, especially among those who are traditionally underserved and underrepresented in Advanced Placement courses. A total of 88 Kentucky high schools in 67 districts have participated in AdvanceKentucky since its inception in 2008; more than 2,500 pre-AP math, science and English teachers statewide have taken advantage of Advance Kentucky’s summer training program.

“Clearly this initiative is having a positive impact,” said Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday. “AdvanceKentucky students have repeatedly demonstrated that in an environment of equity, inclusion and high expectations, not only will they enroll in rigorous coursework, but also they can succeed and gain a competitive edge over other students,” he said.

A comparative data review indicates that AdvanceKentucky schools increased the number of qualifying AP scores — three or higher on a five-point scale — up to 18 times faster than national averages.

Among the schools that have completed three years in AdvanceKentucky, the number of qualifying scores increased by 229 percent.  The number of qualifying scores quintupled among both minority and low income students.

Coupled with sustained annual growth in these scores, Kentucky’s statewide performance in all AP subjects increased by 100 percent and by 137 percent among minority students between 2008 and 2013.

“This success puts Kentucky among an elite group showing the highest AP increases in the nation,” said Advance Kentucky executive director Joanne Lang.  “We are proud of what Kentucky teachers have been able to accomplish as part of AdvanceKentucky, but we are most pleased by what this initiative means for Kentucky students.”

In cooperation with AdvanceKentucky and the Kentucky Department of Education, the Kentucky Center for Education and Workforce Statistics conducted a review of student performance from high schools in the first three groups that partnered with AdvanceKentucky compared with graduates statewide in the class of 2011.

Results point to a clear competitive advantage for college readiness and success that students gain from having an AP experience as part of the AdvanceKentucky initiative.

  • On average, AdvanceKentucky students earned higher PLAN and ACT scores and gained more than twice the number of points from 10th grade PLAN to 11th grade ACT.
  • After AdvanceKentucky high school students enrolled in college, their need for remedial classes was 67 percent less than their peers.
  • AdvanceKentucky students earned a higher average fall semester college grade point average (GPA) and exceeded the 2.5 GPA required to retain Kentucky Educational Excellence Scholarship (KEES) money.

Low income, African American and Hispanic students participating in AP classes at AdvanceKentucky schools experienced the same pattern of higher performance and far fewer remedial needs in college.

“This research indicates a positive, systemic impact when schools adopt a culture of high expectations for students to perform at high levels combined with open enrollment in rigorous coursework and other strategic classroom supports,” Holliday said.  “This initial review of longitudinal data for AdvanceKentucky students reinforces the value of teaching rich content and critical thinking skills and what that means for students’ college success.”

Numerous research studies confirm that college readiness and higher performance in the first year of college sets students on a critical path to degree completion.

A recent U.S. Department of Education blog featured the AdvanceKentucky initiative and its benefits.

An annual review of AdvanceKentucky data will track student performance through college and serve as the basis of a longitudinal study on the benefits and effectiveness of the AdvanceKentucky project.

AdvanceKentucky is an initiative of the Kentucky Science and Technology Corporation in partnership with the Kentucky Department of Education and the National Math and Science Initiative.