Arizona has long been criticized for per student spending near the bottom in K-12 education.
Last week, some good news came to light with the release of the Fourth Annual College Board Advanced Placement Report to the Nation.
It states 10 percent of Arizona high school students in the Class of 2007 achieved an AP exam grade of 3 or higher during their high school years. A 3 score is predictive of college success.
The data in this year's report demonstrates Arizona's continued commitment to closing the equity gap that exists in many states. The number of African-American, Latino and American Indian students obtaining access to and achieving success on AP exams has increased in the last five years, a news release states.
Latino students represent 17.6 percent of public school students from the Class of 2007 achieving success in AP, up from 15.9 percent in the Class of 2006.
"Arizona educators, administrators and policymakers have made good progress in creating access to AP courses for underserved students," College Board President Gaston Caperton stated in the release. "The Arizona Department of Education is to be commended for seeking and obtaining federal funds through the AP Incentive Program."
Statistics in the release indicate that over the past five years: 9,130 students from the Class of 2007 took at least one AP exam, compared to 8,131 for the Class of 2006 and 5,092 for the Class of 2002; 5,455 students in 2007 earned a grade of 3 or higher on at least one AP exam, compared with 4,958 in 2006 and 3,278 in 2002.
The numbers are particularly impressive when considered that slightly more than 15 percent of public high school students nationally in the Class of 2007 got at least one AP exam grade of 3 or higher.
College Board is a not-for-profit membership association whose mission is to connect students to college success and opportunity. Founded in 1900, it has more than 5,400 schools, colleges, universities and other educational organizations serving seven million students and their parents annually.
Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne quickly issued his own news release in response to the report.
He noted the number of students taking AP exams during 2006-2007 rose 17 percent, compared to the national average that fiscal year of 9.5 percent. Additionally, the number of AP exams taken in Arizona that fiscal year were up 18.7 percent, compared to 9.8 percent nationally.
"This hard data again demonstrates we are increasing the rigor in course-work taken by Arizona students," he stated. "These numbers are a testament to the capability of Arizona's students to not just participate in what is widely considered one of the most rigorous high school programs in the country, but also to succeed."
From 2005-2006 to 2006-2007, low-income student participation in AP courses in public schools participating in AZASPIRES jumped 128 percent, from 858 to 1,956, and the number of AP tests taken increased 220 percent, from 452 to 1,446.
Horne said he has been a tireless advocate for increasing rigor in the classroom for all students.
"We continue to see the benefits of high expectations and demanding excellence from students," he said. "The fact more students, and more minority students, are participating in Advanced Placement programs in Arizona than ever before - and scores on AP tests have increased alongside that expansion - shows our efforts in championing rigor are having a powerful effect."
More information on the Advanced Placement Incentive Program may be found on the Internet at www.ed.gov/print/programs/apincent/index.html.