Another record year for students taking AP exam

NASHVILLE – Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn announced today that more than 33,800 Tennessee public school students took the Advanced Placement (AP) exams in the 2018-19 school year – breaking the previous year’s record high of 32,000 for Tennessee. Across Tennessee, 17,607 students earned a score of three, four, or five, which translates into a 3.1% increase in the number of students eligible for college credit at many institutions. Additionally, the number of exams earning a score of three, four, or five increased by 5.1% over last year.

 AP classes offer students the ability to take college-level course work and earn college credit based on their performance on the national AP exam administered by the College Board. The state has been encouraging schools to increase the availability and number of AP exams they offer as part of a diverse portfolio of early postsecondary opportunities. AP exams are one of the eight early postsecondary opportunities offered in Tennessee. Research shows that students who take advantage of at least four early postsecondary opportunities, including IB programs, dual enrollment, dual credit, and industry certifications, are more likely to be prepared for college. Statewide, 33,806 students took a total 56,346 AP exams last year.

“It’s so encouraging to see that Tennessee high schools are not only offering more opportunities for students but are also challenging students to take on more rigorous coursework.” Penny Schwinn, commissioner of education said. “Continued growth is what we strive for at the department, and this is an achievement not only for the students but also for the teachers, who work so hard every day.”

In addition to the statewide uptick, there was also an increase last year in the number of AP tests taken by historically underserved groups, as well as the number of students who scored a three or higher. Specifically, the participation rate among black students increased by 4.5% with a 4.2% increase in the number of exams receiving a score of three or higher.  The participation rate among Hispanic or Latino students increased by 8.9% with 13.6% increase in the number of exams receiving a score of three or higher.

As part of the state plan for the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the department has created an accountability metric known as the Ready Graduate indicator. High school students in Tennessee are considered “ready” for the next step after graduation by meeting one of four checks for readiness. The Ready Graduate indicator is diverse in order to allow for student choice while measuring whether a student has demonstrated readiness for a postsecondary degree or the military. Since students who participate in EPSOs are more likely to be successful in postsecondary, EPSOs, such as taking AP courses, are a critical component of the Ready Graduate indicator.

For district-level results, please contact your local school district. For more information about all of Tennessee’s early postsecondary opportunities, visit the department’s early postsecondary website or contact the department’s early postsecondary program manager, Zachary Adams, at For media inquiries, please contact Jennifer Johnson, director of communications, at

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