MIAMI (AP) -- More than a quarter of all Florida high school seniors are earning high enough scores on Advanced Placement tests to earn college credit, a report released Tuesday by the College Board shows.
Twenty seven percent of Florida students graduating in 2013 scored a 3 or higher on an AP test. That passage rate was the fifth highest in the nation and a big jump from the state's performance a decade before.
In 2003, just 15.3 percent of graduating seniors scored at that level on an AP exam.
"Florida teachers are challenging their students, and their students are answering that challenge," said Patricia Levesque, executive director of the Foundation for Florida's Future, the nonprofit organization started and chaired by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.
Nationwide, 20.1 percent of seniors scored a 3 or higher on an AP test at some point during high school. Advanced Placement exams are given in 34 subjects. The classes are designed to be rigorous and proponents say they help students transition into college-level courses.
The number of U.S. public school students taking AP exams has doubled over the last decade.
Florida in particular has seen a significant increase in participation. In 2003, 32,566 graduating seniors had taken an AP exam at some point during high school, about 25 percent. In 2013, that number had climbed to 80,175 students, or 53 percent.
"Florida is a national leader in providing students access to college-level coursework while they are in high school," Commissioner of Education Pam Stewart said.
Gaps remained in the performance of minority and low-income students. Just 7.3 percent of students who scored a 3 or higher on an AP exam were black, even though they make up 20.6 percent of the 2013 graduating class. Thirty-one percent of all students passing the test were considered low-income, also a lower proportion than the 56 percent they represent among all high school seniors.
The percentage of low-income and Hispanic students scoring a 3 or higher on an AP exam was, however, higher than in 2012. Indeed, Hispanic students made up 31 percent of those passing an AP exam, while they constitute 25.1 percent of the 2013 graduating class.
Bush praised the state for closing the achievement gap between white and Hispanic students successfully completing AP exams.
"But we still have far to go before all children in this great state graduate ready to succeed in college or their chosen careers," he said.