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Greater Numbers of Michigan Students Taking and Achieving in AP Courses

LANSING – The number of Michigan public high school students who took rigorous Advanced Placement (AP) classes in 2023 increased significantly from previous years, as did the number of students who scored successfully on the equally rigorous AP exams, the Michigan Department of Education (MDE) announced today.

In data released today by the College Board, which administers the Advanced Placement program, Michigan had an 11.2% increase in the number of AP exams taken by Michigan public school students in 2023 compared to an 8.6% increase nationally. Michigan had a very significant 13% increase in the number of tests receiving a score of 3, 4, or 5, scores often considered to be deserving of college credit, compared to an 11.2% increase in the number of tests receiving a 3, 4, or 5 nationally. 

The total 97,589 AP exams taken by Michigan public school students in 2023 was the highest amount since 2018 (98,409), two years prior to the pandemic.

Michigan had 56,885 public school students take an AP exam in 2023, up from 52,247 in 2022 and 51,064 in 2021. The number of Michigan public school students taking an AP exam increased by 8.9% in 2023 compared to 7.6% nationally.

”With the support, teaching, and encouragement of Michigan educators, Michigan public school students are reaching higher and achieving more,” said State Superintendent Dr. Michael F. Rice.

In addition, Michigan’s percentage of AP tests scoring at a 3, 4, or 5 was 65.3%, compared to 64.3% the preceding year, in spite of the fact that 4,638 more students took 9,856 more tests in 2023 than in 2022.

“Oftentimes, when you increase participation in an optional, high-bar test like the AP exams, you drop in terms of success rate,” said Dr. Rice. “In fact, with 4,638 more students taking 9,856 more tests, we actually improved.”

The number of AP courses taken by African American and Hispanic students in Michigan and the number of their exams that scored three or higher saw impressive gains in 2023, according to the College Board.

The participation rate in AP courses for African American students in Michigan increased 28% compared to an 11.5% increase nationally, while the numbers of African American students who scored a 3, 4, or 5 on their AP exams increased by 38% last year, compared to a 17% increase nationally.

The participation rate in AP courses for Hispanic students in Michigan increased by 18% compared to 12% nationally, and the numbers of Hispanic students who scored a 3, 4, or 5 on their AP exams increased by 21% compared to 14% nationally.

According to the College Board, there are 38 AP courses offered in seven subject categories.

Each AP course is modeled on a comparable introductory college course in the subject. Each course culminates in a standardized college-level assessment, or AP exam, given in May each year.

Dr. Rice credits this growth to two things:

  1. a pent-up demand for AP courses as a result of the pandemic, during which students may not have been able to take the same number of AP courses as they had hoped; and
  2. a steady promotion of the importance for students to take rigorous coursework in high school to prepare for greater success after graduation.

“We have been drumbeating around rigor,” Dr. Rice said. “The fourth goal of Michigan’s Top 10 Strategic Education Plan is rigorous secondary school opportunities for students. We have leaned into this theme.”

In addition to the Advanced Placement program, there are many ways that students can access rigorous coursework, including dual enrollment in high school and college at the same time, early middle college (EMC), career and technical education (CTE), and the International Baccalaureate® (IB) Diploma Programme (DP), where available.

MDE recognizes that not all districts have these programs, let alone in the same forms. In one form or another, however, students capable of greater rigor should be able to access significant rigor, regardless of where they live, Dr. Rice said.

The College Board tool, AP Potential, correlates PSAT results with the likelihood of AP success. For many years, AP Potential has helped local school districts identify students capable of success in AP courses who, among many others, might not otherwise have been identified for, and/or encouraged to take, AP courses: students from historically underrepresented groups, including but not limited to economically disadvantaged students, students of color, and English learners or former English learners.

MDE partnered with the College Board last year to use the AP Potential Tool at the state level to identify students who are likely to score a 3 or higher on a given AP exam. This identification was based on the student’s performance on the spring 2022 PSAT 8/9 or PSAT 10. Michigan is one of only two states to use AP Potential to communicate directly with students and parents statewide.

MDE sent out letters in November to over 40,000 families whose students scored well enough on the PSAT to indicate that they showed promise to do well in AP courses. MDE worked with the College Board to identify students in grade 10 or 11 who demonstrate potential to succeed in AP coursework.

AP Potential is one of many ways that students can be identified for more rigorous coursework. It is meant as an addition to, not a replacement for, other methods of identifying students for AP and other rigorous educational experiences.

“Students should be encouraged to stretch maximally in their education,” Dr. Rice said. “We want our children to challenge themselves, with support from educators, and to reach for the highest level of education of which they are capable to prepare for increasingly challenging postsecondary educational and career experiences.”