Nine high schools in the Atlanta Public Schools district, including Buckhead’s Atlanta Classical and North Atlanta, were named Advanced Placement (AP) Honor Schools by the Georgia Department of Education when it released its list Feb. 24.

Atlanta had the same number of schools lauded in the class of 2019. Statewide, 244 schools were honored, down from 255 the previous year. In 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, all AP exams were taken online in an abbreviated format.

Based on how schools’ students fared on AP exams, the department started recognizing AP Honor Schools in 2008. The honor began with three categories: AP Access and Support Schools, AP Challenge Schools and AP Merit Schools. The AP STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) and AP STEM Achievement categories were added in 2011, and the AP Humanities category debuted in 2015.

Last year two new categories were added: AP Humanities Achievement and AP Expansion Schools. The AP Merit Schools category was renamed AP Schools of Distinction.

Atlanta Classical was honored in the AP Challenge, AP Humanities, AP Humanities Achievement and AP STEM divisions, and North Atlanta was lauded in the AP Expansion, AP Humanities, AP Humanities Achievement, AP Schools of Distinction, AP STEM and AP STEM Achievement categories.

Other schools honored were Drew (AP Access and Support, AP Challenge), Grady (AP Expansion, AP Schools of Distinction, AP STEM, AP STEM Achievement), Jackson (AP Access and Support, AP STEM), KIPP Atlanta (AP Challenge, AP STEM), Therrell (AP Challenge), South Atlanta (AP Challenge) and Washington (AP Challenge).

On the statewide level, Georgia’s public-school class of 2020 has the 17th-highest AP pass rate in the country (the same as the class of 2019), according to data released by the College Board.

“I’m so proud of the class of 2020 for their continued accomplishments, and extremely pleased to see that Georgia’s students maintained their strong performance on AP exams even given the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in their final year,” State School Superintendent Richard Woods said in a news release. “In a challenging time for schools and students, this is good news as we continue our work to expand advanced learning opportunities to all students.”

The percentage of students earning a 3 or higher on an AP exam was 23.2 percent for Georgia’s class of 2020, the same as the class of 2019. Georgia students recorded stronger AP performance than most Southern states, scoring higher than their peers in Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and West Virginia.

The percentage of low-income AP test-takers who scored 3 or higher increased in Georgia for the second straight year, jumping from 43.7% for the class of 2019 to 49.4% for the class of 2020. This figure is based on the performance of students who used an AP exam fee reduction, which states look to as a marker of equitable participation for low-income students.

Overall, 38.5% of Georgia’s class of 2020 took an AP exam while in high school. This is a slight drop compared to the class of 2019 – of those students, 40.5% took at least one AP exam. The national participation rate decreased slightly as well, from 39.9 to 38.3%.

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