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The Student News Site of Sunny Hills High School

The Accolade

The Student News Site of Sunny Hills High School

The Accolade

2022 Sunny Hills Advanced Placement exams yield higher passing rate averages despite fewer students taking them

Source: principal Craig Weinreich
Passing rate averages for Advanced Placement [AP] exams from the 2021-2022 school year show an 8% increase compared with the previous school year and 1% below 2020’s highest rate over the past five years. The College Board views a 3 or higher as passing for its AP tests.

After returning to a full, in-person Advanced Placement testing environment for the first time in three years, the number of Sunny Hills students who passed with a 3 or higher improved 8% compared to the previous school year, officials said.

“We did a lot better than last year,” principal Craig Weinreich said.

During the 2020-2021 school year, the College Board gave test-takers the option of taking an online version of most exams instead of students taking them on their campuses as they have done traditionally.

Despite those choices, only an average of 67% passed with a 3 or higher, compared with the 75% for the 2021-2022 school year when the College Board returned to a traditional in-person only format.

According to data provided by Weinreich, the following AP subjects are among the Top 5 that showed the most growth in passing rate (the principal did not make available passing rates for individual subject tests, though some teachers interviewed provided them to The Accolade):

  • Biology 
  • Calculus AB
  • Computer Science Principles
  • English Literature
  • Environmental Science 

This year’s 75% average passing rate brought back the mid-70s normalcy from 2018-2020.

Additionally, the principal also said 1,847 different exams were taken with 924 SH students in comparison to the 1,779 tests with 971 examinees in 2021.

Weinreich pointed to the different testing formats as to a possible reason for the difference between 2022 and 2021 average passing rates.

“In-person [AP tests] are a little more standard, and students tend to be more used to it,” he said. “That’s what they do in their classrooms, so it’s probably easier and more comfortable for them to do it that way.”

While the 2020 AP tests were only administered online, the 2021 test-takers had the option of taking in person exams; however, the majority – 815 of 1,048 examinees – chose to take the online version that year. 

“It was honestly very hard to actually learn during online classes, and waiting for my fate to flash on the screen as I took the test did not help either,” said senior Elyssa Dimalanta, who scored a 5 on the online 2021 AP Psychology exam. “However, I still felt that deciding to take [the AP Psychology exam] online was the safest and healthiest option for my family and I.”

AP Biology was among those that demonstrated some huge gains with an approximately 91% passing rate last semester in comparison to 65% the previous year, AP Biology teacher Kelly Kim said.

In comparison, according to head of the AP program Trevor Packer’s (@AP_Trevor) July 30 tweet, 2022 nationwide score passing rate distribution for AP Biology was approximately 59%. 

“I felt that when we were online the kids did not ask as many questions,” said Kim, who taught four sections of the subject last year. “It was harder to connect with kids, give them practice questions and even test with AP style questions.” 

In addition, in-person interactions, hands-on learning/labs and most importantly, various AP-like practices that allowed feedback were among other factors that played a role in increased passing scores, she said.

“Before the test, [Kim] gave us many free response and multiple choice practices, so when I was doing the test I felt very familiar with the format, which made it much easier,” said senior Rayden Domingo, who received a 3. 

AP Calculus AB teacher Nicole Knutson agreed with the reasons for students doing better, as her students’ passing rate went from approximately 80% in 2021 to 98% in 2022. 

By contrast, Packer also tweeted the nationwide passing score distribution for AP Calculus AB as 51%. 

“Some students during the hybrid school year did not honestly do their work since it was online, which was reflected in their scores,” Knutson said. “This [past] year, students were actually awake.”

For students, the in-person aspect seems to be a factor for improvement with the exams in general. 

“This time around I was able to connect with my teacher without a screen and I was in a more student-like environment,” said Dimalanta, who passed the AP US History, Calculus AB and English Language tests this year but declined to share her exact scores. “It felt like I was actually in high school for the first time since freshman year.”

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Giselle Suastegui, Feature Editor
Serving her first year on staff, senior Giselle Suastegui is excited to take on her role as co-feature editor for The Accolade alongside her colleague Alexxa Berumen. After finally being able to take Journalism 1 her junior year, she hopes to navigate the newspaper voyage and aims to grow, not only as a writer but as a person, as she balances rigorous courses and takes on new responsibilities this year. When not working for The Accolade, you can find her leading other school clubs, watching Netflix or hanging out with friends.
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