Wednesday, June 8, 2016

by Kristin Flanary

student at laptop
For the eighth consecutive year, George Washington High School in Cedar Rapids is the top Advanced Placement school in Iowa, according to the Iowa AP Index.

The index, developed in 2005 by the University of Iowa College of Education's Connie Belin & Jacqueline N. Blank International Center for Gifted Education and Talent Development, assesses Advanced Placement (AP) participation among accredited public and nonpublic schools in Iowa. The index is part of the Belin-Blank Center’s efforts to recognize Iowa schools that provide challenging academic opportunities for high school students.

The College Board’s Advanced Placement Program allows students to pursue college-level studies and take college-level exams while in high school. In May 2015, more than 2.4 million students took 4.5 million AP Exams in 36 subjects. 

Rounding out the top 5 schools in the 2016 Iowa AP Index behind first-place George Washington High School (index of 3.35) are Roosevelt High School (2nd, Des Moines, index of 3.07); John F. Kennedy High School (3rd, Cedar Rapids, index of 2.85); North High School (4th, Des Moines, index of 2.39); and Prince of Peace Catholic High School (5th, Clinton, index of 2.33).

“Advanced Placement opportunities make a big difference in the lives of the students and their teachers. The rating reflects participation in the AP program at a school, not the overall quality of the school. However, one indication of a high school’s commitment to preparing high-ability students for college is access to advanced courses. Schools that make these opportunities available to the students are clearly committed to the success of the entire student body,” said Susan Assouline, director of the Belin-Blank Center.

The number of schools in Iowa offering AP opportunities and the number of AP exams taken has increased substantially since 2001, with 202 high schools having at least one student take an AP Exam and 19,787 AP Exams taken in 2015, according to the College Board. Sometimes, when greater numbers of students participate, there is a decline in performance. However, that is not the case with Iowa’s students. In 2015, the percentage of Iowa exams with a score of 3 or higher was 62.9%, which compares favorably to the 2015 national average of 57.5%. 

The Iowa AP Index is designed to give a fair comparison of AP opportunity across Iowa schools. An index score is calculated for each participating school based on the ratio of AP exams taken by all its students divided by the number of its graduating seniors.

Through the Iowa Online AP Academy (IOAPA), funded by the State of Iowa, all accredited high schools have access to free tuition for online AP courses and online AP Exam Review.  During 2015-2016, Iowa’s 6th graders had access to above-level testing, which indicates readiness for pre-AP advanced coursework. Iowa’s eligible middle school students also had access to free high-school level coursework through the Iowa Online AP Academy, in order to prepare them for future AP courses in high school. The Belin-Blank Center also provides outreach and professional development for teachers through the College Board-accredited Advanced Placement Teacher Training Institute.

To view the top 50 AP schools in Iowa, visit