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October 25, 2014

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Nevada improves in Advanced Placement test takers

The percentage of Nevada high school students taking Advanced Placement exams that can earn them college credit has risen during the last decade, but it still falls below the national average, according to a report released Tuesday by The College Board.

The nonprofit's survey found 16.9 percent of Nevada students who graduated in 2013 scored a three or higher on an AP exam during high school. Colleges typically accept a score of three, four or five for credit and placement.

While Nevada is below the national average of 20.1 percent, it's a big improvement in the state since 2003, when only 10.3 percent of students taking the exam posted those results.

The trend comes as more Nevada students are taking the test. A decade ago, about 2,600 students — 16 percent of the state's graduating class — had taken at least one AP exam during high school. Last year, that number was more than 7,000 — nearly 32 percent of students graduating in 2013.

AP classes, which are more rigorous than general high school courses, help prepare students for college and save them time and money if they earn college credit by passing the corresponding test, state officials said.

"Today I applaud educators who have worked hard to bring the rigorous and relevant instruction of AP to more students in Nevada than ever before," Dale Erquiaga, Nevada’s superintendent of public instruction, said in a statement. "But we can work harder to increase the number of students taking AP or other accelerated courses."

Nevada needs to better identify students who should be taking advanced classes but require encouragement, Erquiaga said, adding that parents are critical in the process.

State officials said they had identified more than 2,500 Nevada students who had a high probability of passing an AP exam but didn't take the test. That metric was derived from students' performance on the Preliminary SAT test (PSAT).

"All students who are academically ready for the rigor of an AP course should have access to rigorous coursework, regardless of their socio-economic, geographic or racial/ethnic background," Erquiaga said. "I encourage continued efforts across the state to increase access to AP courses for all Nevada students."

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