Today the College Board released its Sixth Annual AP Report to the Nation. The Advanced Placement program is designed to help academically prepared high school students develop and apply the knowledge skills they will need in college. It is a voluntary program that consists of more than 30 academic courses and culminates in a suite of college-level assessments graded on a scale of 1 to 5 that demonstrate students’ mastery of college-level course work. “Research consistently shows that students who score a 3 or higher typically experience greater academic success in college and improved graduation rates than their non-AP student peers.”

According to the College Board (p. 2), 45 percent of students who have taken one AP course and 61 percent of students who have taken two or more AP courses complete their bachelor’s degrees in four years or less. In contrast, only 29 percent of students who have not taken an AP course complete their college degrees on time.

While the College Board reports some encouraging results, success varies by state. An analysis by USA Today notes that the number of students participating in the AP courses rose from 704,000 in 1999 to 1.7 million in 2009. Yet the percentage of students who earned failing AP scores of 1 or 2 last year increased to 45 percent, up from 37 percent in 1999.

Results like these indicate that all students, academically struggling and gifted ones alike, need high-quality educational options if they are to succeed in an increasingly competitive world.