Students at whiteboard
Emily Stahly

High-school students confronted with the looming expense of college tuition have a lot to gain from advanced-placement (AP) courses. These courses enable students to earn college credit while still in high school—potentially an enormous savings in time and money—provided that students complete the rigorous coursework and pass an exam at the end of the term. So it’s disappointing to learn that in 2016, only 11.4 percent of graduating high school students in Missouri passed an AP exam. This rate is the sixth-worst among the 50 states.

The statistic comes from a new report released by The College Board last week. According to the report, 21.9 percent of high school graduates nationwide pass an AP test. Massachusetts had the highest percentage (31.0 percent), while Mississippi had the lowest (5.9 percent).

So how can Missouri policymakers help more students take advantage of AP courses?

A good first step would be to increase enrollment in AP classes through course access programs. Show-Me Institute analysts have written about the need for course access in Missouri for some time now, and currently bills are making their way through the legislature that would allow students to take AP courses (either online or at an approved off-site location) when those courses are not offered at their high schools.

Recently, we updated our numbers and found that 284 out of 448 school districts with high schools did not have a single student enrolled in an AP course during the 2015–2016 school year.

It is time to expand opportunities for our high schoolers to take advanced courses and prepare them to better compete in college with students from other states. 

About the Author

Emily Stahly

Emily Stahly is an analyst at the Show-Me Institute. She earned her B.A. in politics from Hillsdale College in Michigan and is researching education with the Show-Me Institute.