More high school students in Billings — and from across Montana — took Advanced Placement classes in 2013 than ever before.

In School District 2, a total of 748 students took one or more AP classes during the 2012-2013 school year, up from 707 the year before.

Students who participate in AP classes, typically seniors, have the option of taking a test at the end of the course that gives them college credit if they pass.

The number of students making that choice also is on the rise. Last school year, at least 367 SD2 students took the AP test for the courses they had completed, up from 348 the year before.

Statewide, the rate of seniors participating in AP classes increased by 38 percent over the last decade. Last year, 1,873 Montana seniors took at least one AP class.

The number of AP students demonstrating college-level mastery scores on an AP exam increased by 56 percent during the same period. In all, 3,097 Montana students took some kind of AP exam last year and passed.

The increase in AP class enrollment and AP test taking in Billings follows the gains SD2 has made recently in its graduation rate. In the last two years, SD2’s graduation rate jumped from 77.6 percent in 2011 to 82.5 in 2013.

Along with the improved graduation rates, the district’s dropout rate fell from 4.6 percent in 2011 to a flat 4 percent in 2013.

Dropout rates differ from graduation rates in that a dropout rate calculates only the number of students who check out of school in one given year. The graduation rate follows a class through all four years of high school.

For the last few years state education leaders have been working to increase high school graduation rate across Montana. They’ve also been working to increase college-readiness, which they measure, in part, by tracking AP class participation.

“We need to continue to encourage more teachers to become AP teachers and recruit additional students to take AP courses in their schools or through the Montana Digital Academy,” said state Superintendent of Schools Denise Juneau in a statement.

“Thousands of Montana students are ready to take rigorous AP courses, and we need to take the next step by expanding AP opportunities for all students who are ready for the challenge,” she added.


Education reporter for the Billings Gazette in Montana. Rob covers Billings School District 2 and the smaller districts in the surrounding area.

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