Why local educators want statewide AP standard

Updated 6/20/2015 12:35 PM

Illinois does not have a statewide standard for receiving college credit from the College Board Advanced Placement exam. Suburban educators are pushing for one so students scoring a 3 or higher could earn college credit.

That, they say, would help stem the tide of students leaving Illinois for Wisconsin, Indiana and Ohio colleges where such standards already are in place.


"Illinois has become one of the largest exporters of college students in the country," said Lazaro Lopez, associate superintendent for teaching and learning for Northwest Suburban High School District 214.

Legislation seeking the change passed the Illinois House and Senate and is awaiting the governor's approval.

AP exams measure a student's content mastery of college-level studies in specific academic disciplines.

Illinois ranks 13th in the nation for the percentage of 2014 graduates -- 23.5 percent -- who scored at least a 3 on an AP exam during their high school career. The national average is 21.6 percent.

Right now, every Illinois institution is able to set its own standard on what it accepts.

"Every community college is different, and every department treats AP differently, and that's not fair," Lopez said. "There are some community colleges that have higher standards than universities."

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Fourteen states have adopted a statewide AP exam policy, he added.

The College Board and the American Council on Education recommend colleges and universities award credit for AP scores of 3 and higher on any AP exam.

Research shows students who earn a score of 3 or higher typically achieve higher grade-point averages in college, are more likely to graduate from college on time in four years, and have higher graduation rates, compared to all students, according to the Illinois State Board of Education.

Last year, record numbers of high school graduates took AP exams statewide.

Meanwhile, the state's student population has grown increasingly diverse; more than half of students live in low-income households.

Less than 30 percent of high school graduates who took AP exams in 2014 were low-income students. Of that population, those who scored a 3 or higher roughly doubled in the last four years. Minority and low-income students who earn at least a 3 are more likely than their peers to earn college degree within five years of enrolling, according to ISBE.

That's why the legislation is so important, Lopez said.

"It will ensure (Illinois institutions) don't lose more college students to neighboring states," he said.

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