Finally a small break in the storm clouds for Nevada’s public schools. Data released last week by the College Board’s Advanced Placement exams show the improvement level in the state’s passing rate was the nation’s highest.
And that’s not just a statistical anomaly reflecting a dismal starting point. Nevada students who graduated last year had a 24.7 percent passing score on AP exams, ranking above the national average of 22.7 percent. That’s a 13 percent improvement from 2016.
For a state that routinely ranks at the bottom of various achievement rankings, Nevada students posted the 15th best AP passing score in the country.
The gains date back a full decade. Last year, the state was recognized for having posted the largest 10-year jump.
AP tests are administered in a number of subjects and scored on a scale of 1 to 5. A 3 or better is considered a passing number and will typically earn students college credit, potentially saving them and their families thousands of dollars in tuition costs.
“Our high school graduates are the fastest-improving in the nation on the AP exam,” said Steve Canavero, state superintendent of instruction. “That’s good for our economy and the development of the skilled workforce that Nevada’s new economy is demanding.”
The results will no doubt raise eyebrows, given that Nevada students have performed dismally in recent years on the ACT test, which measures college readiness. But there’s an explanation for the dichotomy: The state requires all high school juniors to take the ACT; students who sit for AP exams are traditionally those already earning good grades and heading to college.
“This is AP. It’s an advanced program,” said Trevor Packer of the College Board. “It’s not the full indicator of Nevada’s (educational) health.”
Indeed, other test results show Nevada has a large hill to climb to get a great many of its public school students up to speed in reading comprehension and basic math. But the AP results provide a welcome respite from the dark skies that typically hover over the state’s educational landscape.