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Fairfax Students Taking More Advanced Classes

AP scores rise while those for IB dipped slightly, Fairfax County Public Schools says

The number of Fairfax County Public Schools students taking higher-level courses is rising, the system said this week.

Data released by the system shows a significant increase in the total number of students enrolled in classes as well as the number of exams given.

It also shows a higher percentage of students are earning a passing score on Advanced Placement exams, though the percentage of International Baccalaureate students scoring 4 or higher on their exams dipped slightly.

FCPS Superintendent Jack Dale said in a statement the increase can be attributed in part to more access to AP and IB coursework and differentiated instruction at the schools.

“The increases in AP and IB participation are the result of an emphasis on expanding access to advanced academic coursework to all students," Dale said in the statement. "Differentiated and rigorous advanced academic instruction has resulted in AP and IB student performance that has remained relatively stable or increased while AP and IB enrollment continue to rise.”

According to information released by the system, 16,356 students took a total of 35,759 AP exams in 2012, a 5.2 percent increase from the 16,162 students taking 33,983 exams in 2011.

IB exams increased by 13.8 percent: A total of 2,898 students took 7,525 IB exams this year, compared with 2,666 students taking 6,609 IB exams in 2011 (see data here).

Oakon High School does not offer the IB program.

Higher Scores

The percentage of AP exams with a score of 3 or higher increased overall from 69 percent in 2011 to 72 percent in 2012.  The percentage of AP exams with a score of 3 or higher also increased for all ethnic groups. (See data here).

Of all AP exams taken, the percentage of students with a score of 3 or higher increased by 8.6 percent overall from 2011 to 2012. The increase was 14.6 percent for Black students, 14.1 percent for Asian students, 8.2 percent for Hispanic students, and 5.2 percent for White students.

Enrollment in at least one AP course increased for most ethnic groups with an overall enrollment increase of 1.2 percent.

A Dip for IB

While IB enrollment in one or more IB courses increased 8.7 percent overall in 2012, the percentage of IB exams with a score of 4 or higher decreased slightly overall, as well as for most ethnic groups—it dropped the most among Hispanic students and those that identify as "other." (See data here).

While percentages varied slightly this year, and not much since 2009, schools spokesman John Torre said, the actual number of students with scores of 4 or higher have climbed steadily. Some 5,382 students scored a 4 or higher in 2012, an increase of 9.8 percent overall from the 4,901 with a similar score in 2011.

The number rose 23.4 percent among Black students, 11.4 percent among Asian students, 10.1 percent among White students and 7.6 percent among Hispanic students (see table 6). 

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