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University of Iowa News Release


May 4, 2009

2009 index identifies top Iowa schools for Advanced Placement participation

George Washington High School in Cedar Rapids has become the state's first public school to achieve the No. 1 ranking on the "Iowa Advanced Placement Index for the Top 50 Schools."

The index, developed by the University of Iowa College of Education's Connie Belin & Jacqueline N. Blank International Center for Gifted Education and Talent Development, assesses AP participation among public and private schools in Iowa. Each school is given an index score based on the ratio of AP exams taken by all its students divided by the number of its graduating seniors.

A score of 1.00 means the number of AP exams for a school equals the number of graduates. Ten schools achieved or surpassed this standard this year, up from eight last year.

In the latest index, George Washington earned the top score of 2.21; John F. Kennedy High School, another public high school in Cedar Rapids, came in second with a score of 1.73; Regina High School (a private school) in Iowa City ranked third with a score of 1.69; West High School (a public school) in Iowa City ranked fourth with a score of 1.63; and Ames High School (a public school) ranked fifth with a score of 1.59.

Regina High School is the smallest school in the top ten, with 59 graduates in May/June 2008. The largest school in the top 50 is Valley High School in West Des Moines with 559 graduates, and the smallest school is Prince of Peace College Preparatory in Clinton with 15 graduates.

The Belin-Blank Center will present certificates of recognition to the top 50 schools. The top 25 schools will be honored during the annual Belin-Blank Recognition Ceremony Sunday, Oct. 18 at the UI.

The Belin-Blank Center developed the index five years ago as part of a broader effort to encourage and recognize Iowa schools that provide high-level academic opportunities for high school students. The index is designed to give a fair comparison of AP opportunity across Iowa schools.

"While there is some controversy over Advanced Placement courses such as too much material covered in a short time, there is strong, research-supported agreement by educators that AP courses and exams are a rigorous and meaningful indicator of academic preparation for college," said Belin-Blank Center Director Nicholas Colangelo. "Iowa students continue to make substantial strides in both numbers of students participating in AP exams and levels of achievement."

Colangelo said AP exams also provide a uniform standard of academic accomplishment across geography, economic status, ethnicity and school size. AP exams cover 37 subject areas, and exams are scored on a scale of one to five, with five considered top-level work (a grade equivalent of an "A") in a corresponding college course. A score of three or better is often accepted for either college credit or placement.

The 2009 Iowa AP Index is based on the AP exams taken in May 2008 and seniors graduating in May/June 2008. In 2007-08, there were 383 (356 public and 27 nonpublic) accredited high schools according to the Iowa Department of Education. Of these 383 accredited high schools, 211 (196 public and 15 nonpublic), or 55 percent of schools, had at least one student take an AP exam in 2008. Of these 211 accredited Iowa high schools that had at least one student take an AP exam in 2008, 95 percent (201 schools; 186 public and 15 nonpublic) agreed to participate in the 2009 Iowa AP Index.

The statistics for graduating seniors were provided by the Iowa Department of Education, and the College Board provided the statistics for the AP exams.

The top 50 schools range in graduating class size from 15 to 559. There are 40 public and 10 private schools in the top 50. To view the latest index of the top 50 schools based on May 2008 testing visit

For more information on the 2009 Iowa AP Index visit

In 2008, Iowa students ranked sixth in the nation, with 67 percent of its students scoring at a level of 3 or better on the AP exams.

The Belin-Blank Center, in partnership with the Iowa Department of Education, has made a concerted effort to bring AP opportunities to the schools of Iowa, particularly to rural schools.

"The goal of the Belin-Blank Center has been that, in Iowa, geography will not determine educational opportunity," Colangelo said.

In 2001 with the support of U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, the Belin-Blank Center and the Iowa Department of Education established the Iowa Online AP Academy (IOAPA) to provide online AP courses and exams to all students at accredited high schools in Iowa, with a special focus on rural schools. The grant covers the cost of the courses and materials.

"The academy has been a tremendously successful program, and the percentage of schools with access to AP has increased dramatically," Colangelo said. "These are rather significant changes in only seven years, but perhaps what is most striking is that while the number of schools in Iowa offering AP and the number of Iowa students taking AP exams increased substantially from 2001 to 2008, the performance on the AP exams for Iowa students remains high."

Nationally, in May 2008, more than 1.5 million high school students took more than 2.6 million AP exams. AP allows students to pursue college-level studies while still in high school. More than 3,000 colleges and universities accept AP exam scores for either college credit or placement in higher-level courses.

The Belin-Blank Center sent schools that did not make the top 50 their AP index for this year in a confidential mailing. Each school can measure its individual progress by comparing its 2009 index score with last year's score.

EDITORS: Receipt of this news release indicates that a school in your coverage area has been included in the Iowa AP Index ranking. The top 50 schools are listed at The following information is included: rank, school, city, AP tests administered, graduating seniors and AP Index. Where the index score is the same for multiple schools, this is the result of rounding.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500

MEDIA CONTACTS: Nicholas Colangelo, Belin-Blank Center,; Susan Assouline, Belin-Blank Center, 319-335-6130,; Lois J. Gray, University News Services, 319-384-0077,