Some might think that this looks bad.
According to a College Board report, about 800,000 public high school seniors in last May’s graduating class, or 26.5 percent of the class, took an A.P. exam at some point in their high school career, almost twice as many as took A.P. exams in the class of 2001.
While the majority of students who take A.P. exams still earn a passing score of 3, 4 or 5, which is enough to earn college credit at many institutions, the share of failing scores has risen with the program’s rapid expansion. In 2009, about 43 percent of the 2.3 million A.P. exams taken earned a failing grade of 1 or 2, compared with 39 percent of the one million exams taken by the class of 2001.
Now speaking as a teacher in an AP program (as well as a former AP student), I have to say that this does not surprise me. When you increase the number of kids taking the tests, you will quantitatively get more failures. But you will also get a higher failure rate because of who is taking the class and when they are taking it. This happens for two reasons.
As you can see, I’m not bothered by that failure rate. If our kids are exposed to more knowledge and more rigorous standards, they will learn more and be better prepared later on when they get to college. And that is, after all, what really matters.