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University of Iowa News Release


May 2, 2011

UI's 2011 index recognizes top Iowa schools for Advanced Placement participation

George Washington High School in Cedar Rapids achieved the No. 1 ranking on the "2011 Iowa AP Index" for the third year in a row.

The index, developed seven years ago by the University of Iowa College of Education's Connie Belin and Jacqueline N. Blank International Center for Gifted Education and Talent Development, assesses Advanced Placement (AP) participation among accredited public and private schools in Iowa. The index is part of the Belin-Blank Center's efforts to encourage and recognize Iowa schools that provide high-level 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 2010, more than 1.8 million high school students took more than 3.2 million AP exams in 33 subjects. 

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.

The rating reflects participation in the AP program at a school, not the overall quality of the school, according to Nicholas Colangelo (photo, left), Belin-Blank Center director. However, one indication of a high school's commitment to preparing high-ability students for college is access to advanced courses.

In the latest index, George Washington earned the top score of 2.93; John F. Kennedy High School, another public high school in Cedar Rapids, came in second with a score of 2.55; Regina High School in Iowa City ranked third with a score of 2.05; West High School in Iowa City ranked fourth with a score of 1.95; and Ames High School ranked fifth with a score of 1.87.

The Top 50 schools range from rural to urban, public to nonpublic, and they span the state's geography. There are 42 public and 8 nonpublic schools in the Top 50.

Geography does not determine opportunity

"AP courses and exams are essential to ensuring that all students in the state of Iowa are as prepared for college as possible and receive the same rigorous academic experience, whether they are in Denison or Des Moines or Strawberry Point or Sioux City," Colangelo said. "We want to ensure that geography does not determine educational opportunity."

Prince of Peace Academy and College Preparatory in Clinton, which ranked number 12, is the smallest school in the Top 50, with 23 graduates in 2010. Valley High School in West Des Moines, which ranked number eight, is the largest school on the index, with 525 graduates in 2010.

Maureen Marron, associate research scientist with the Institute for Research and Policy on Acceleration, part of the Belin-Blank Center, said the index illustrates many encouraging trends. She said the index score for the No. 1 school has been steadily increasing since 2008 and that the state average for all public schools has been steadily increasing since 2006.

"There are fewer students participating in the 2011 Index, but those students are taking more exams, Marron said. Across the state, there were 1,516 more exams in 2010 than in 2009.

Online Academy turns around low ranking

Until recently, Iowa ranked among the lowest in the nation on AP exams per student population, in part because of the large rural demographic.

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 AP opportunities to all students at accredited high schools in Iowa, with a special focus on rural schools. The partnership with the Iowa Department of Education covers the cost of the courses, exams and materials.

Student performance remains high

Despite the substantial increase in the number of Iowa students taking AP exams since 2001, student performance remains high. In 2010, 64.5 percent of Iowa's students scored a three or better on the AP exams, which compares favorably to the 2010 national average of 57.9 percent of students who scored a three or better.

Colangelo said that support for AP classes in Iowa received a big boost in 2008 when the Iowa legislature passed the Senior Year Plus program. The program helps "to provide Iowa high school students increased access to college credit or advanced placement coursework." The Senior Year Plus statute (Iowa Code 261E.4) "compels all school districts to make AP courses available to students." Schools can fulfill the obligations of the Senior Year Plus program by participating in IOAPA

The 2011 Iowa AP Index is based on the AP exams taken in May 2010 and seniors graduating in May/June 2010 in 202 participating schools (186 public and 16 nonpublic). Of the 375 accredited high schools (348 public and 27 nonpublic) in the 2009-10 school year, 209 (193 public and 16 nonpublic), or 55.7 percent of schools, had at least one student take an AP exam in 2010.

The top 25 schools will be honored during the annual Belin-Blank Recognition Ceremony on Oct. 23, 2011, at the UI. The top 50 schools will receive certificates of recognition.

To view the list of this year's top 50 schools, visit

The Belin-Blank Center's AP Index website is

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,; Maureen Marron, Belin-Blank Center, 319-335-6148,; Lois J. Gray, University News Services, 319-384-0077,