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Nevada students rise above national average in advanced placement scores

Nevada students appear to have broken the code in at least one education measure.

A new report released Wednesday by the College Board shows that 22.5 percent of Nevada high school students passed advanced placement exams, slightly higher than the national average.

Nationwide, 21.9 percent of students who take the placement exams earn a score of three or higher, on a scale of one to five. Massachusetts led the nation with 31 percent of students passing the courses.

Nevada has improved the percentage of students passing the exams at a faster rate than the nationwide average during the past decade, according to the College Board. Since 2006, Nevada has jumped from 14 percent to 22.5 percent.

“This is another strong indicator that our education system is evolving to meet the demands on the new Nevada economy and that we have what it takes to become the fastest-improving state in the nation,” state Superintendent Steve Canavero said in a statement.

The College Board, which administers the placement test, offers more than 30 courses for high school students. Most universities and colleges will offer student credits if they earn three or higher on the exams.

A new coding class, computer science principles, was also highlighted in the report and lauded by Gov. Brian Sandoval and Susan Van Doren, a Douglas County English teacher and one of 22 authorized to teach the class statewide.

“This is a class that really helps kids see how computer science can fit into the passions that they already have,” said Van Doren, who teaches at George Whittell High School. “It is really an entry-level class. They don’t have to have any background in computer science.”

The class was launched last fall, so the scores are not yet included in the latest data. More than 2,500 schools nationwide are offering the course this year, including 40 students working with Van Doren.

Van Doren petitioned the district to add the class after seeing how much her students liked solving problems hands-on through free, online coding courses. Van Doren also had to earn a computer science certification, taking online classes at night to be able to teach it.

“Once I started it, I didn’t want to quit,” she said. “Every year we lose is going to be another group of kids that graduate from here without having any computer science skills. And I couldn’t wait for someone else to do it.”

In December, Sandoval announced that every school district would offer the coding class next year. Part of the governor’s commitment includes training for more teachers; he also included $1 million in his proposed budget to continue to help cover costs.

“Computing is one of the top sources of new wages in our nation, and there are thousands of current jobs and jobs of the future that will request skills in computer science,” Sandoval said in December.

Contact Meghin Delaney at 702-383-0281 or mdelaney@reviewjournal.com. Follow @MeghinDelaney on Twitter.

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