AP test scores improve

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Big Island public school students are making strides on Advanced Placement exams, though performance overall still trails behind national averages.

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Big Island public school students are making strides on Advanced Placement exams, though performance overall still trails behind national averages.

That’s according to information released this week by the state Department of Education, which shows 403 AP exams taken on Hawaii Island in the 2015-16 school year earned at least a passing 3 score, up from 369 the year prior. Exams are scored on a five-point scale.

Those exams were among 999 administered islandwide in 2015-16, translating to a passing rate of about 40 percent (those earning a minimum 3 score) which is roughly the same as the year prior. A total of 629 public school students took the exams.

Statewide, the number of exams scoring 3 or higher also was about 40 percent — up from about 39 percent in 2012 though below the national public school passing rate of roughly 57 percent.

The number of exams administered on the Big Island, however, increased last school year by 10.1 percent, and 9.4 percent more students took exams, the DOE says.

Statewide, 8.5 percent more AP tests were administered to Hawaii public school students in the 2015-16 school year than in 2014-15, and an additional 5.8 percent students took exams. Nationally, those numbers were 5.1 percent and 5.3 percent, respectively.

DOE Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi said in a news release the gains “show promising system-wide improvement” and “reflect the hard work and professional development being done by our educators to prepare for and teach these college-level courses.”

Seventy-four Big Island students were among those to qualify for AP Scholar Awards this year, which recognize students who score high on multiple exams.

Waiakea High School qualified for 21 scholar awards, Hilo High School qualified for 14, Honokaa High School for five, Kohala High School for three, Konawaena High School for six and Kealakehe High School for 25, including one National AP Scholar Award qualifier: student Emily Bishop scored a “4” or higher on at least eight exams and an average score of at least 4 on all exams.

Waiakea High School Principal Kelcy Koga said Thursday the AP results were “very encouraging” and attributes Waiakea’s performance to its students, who he said “take the exams seriously.”

Koga said Waiakea requires students enrolled in AP courses to take the exam, which isn’t the case at every school. Koga said Waiakea’s AP teachers also participate in off-island training every other year to keep instruction skills sharp.

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AP exams are administered each spring by the College Board. Students who score at least a 3 can earn college credit.

More than 40 Hawaii high schools statewide offer AP courses in more than two dozen subjects, according to the DOE’s website. Students can take an AP exam without enrolling in an AP course.

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