Numbers Up, But State Still Ranks Low in AP Courses

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COLUMBIA - According to new numbers released Wednesday by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, more Missouri high schoolers than ever are taking Advanced Placement or AP courses. The good news ends there. While numbers are up, Missouri is still the third lowest state in the nation when it comes to the percentage of students taking those classes.

"Some of our districts are smaller, more rural. They might not have the resources we do," said Michelle Baumstark with the Columbia School District.

Baumstark said Columbia Public schools are a leader in the state in AP programs.

"In fact, we are one of the highest districts in the state when it comes to AP test takers as well as the number of test takers who are scoring well," said Baumstark.

In 2008, more than 20,000 Missouri students took AP tests. In 2013, that number rose to more than 26,000 students. Its a steady increase education leaders hope continues.

"AP classes are one way schools can offer students experience with the kinds of courses they will encounter in college and the increasingly higher expectations of the workplace," said Missouri Commissioner of Education Chris Nicastro, in a statement Wednesday. "We want to continue to increase the number of students taking AP classes to help them acquire the knowledge and skills they need for the future."

Columbia Public Schools agrees with that statement. Even with a steady 16-20 percent of the entire student body enrolled in AP courses, school leaders are still finding ways to motivate even more students to take the courses.

"[We are] encouraging them to challenge themselves," said Baumstark. "I think so much of it knowing they can do it. If you set the bar high and expectations high, kids will always rise to meet that."