Florida students now No. 2 in America in AP exam success

When it comes to academic performance, Florida’s public education system continues to rack up the trophies.

The Sunshine State now ranks No. 2 in the nation in the percentage of graduating seniors who have passed college-caliber Advanced Placement exams, behind only Connecticut, according to data released Wednesday by the College Board.

At 34.2%, Florida’s performance in 2020 far outpaces the national average of 24.4% and is just a hair behind Connecticut, at 34.5%. Florida moved up one spot in the rankings from last year, passing Massachusetts.

AP exams are standardized tests that correspond with dozens of college-caliber high school courses. They are widely viewed as a good gauge of a student’s college readiness and, in some credible quarters, as a valuable indicator of a state’s educational quality.

Florida’s performance is all the more impressive given its high rate of high-poverty students and its relatively low per-pupil spending. In fact, Florida has both the lowest per-pupil spending of any state in the AP Top 10, and the highest rate of students eligible for free- and reduced-price lunch. According to the most recent federal rate, Florida spends less than half per pupil than Connecticut.

The Sunshine State’s academic progress tends to get overlooked in media coverage, but those following Florida’s trend lines know the latest results are not a fluke. Last fall, Education Week ranked Florida No. 3 in K-12 Achievement, the state’s highest ranking ever after more than a decade in or near the national Top 10. 

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BY Ron Matus

Ron Matus is director of Research & Special Projects at Step Up for Students and a former editor of redefinED. He joined Step Up in February 2012 after 20 years in journalism, including eight years as an education reporter with the Tampa Bay Times (formerly the St. Petersburg Times).


Spending per pupil has no relation to academic performance. If money was the answer, then everyone from NY and DC would be going to elite colleges. Florida is 46 out of 51 in spending per pupil https://educationdata.org/public-education-spending-statistics#:~:text=Schools%20in%20the%20United%20States,operation%20and%20Development%20(OECD). Parochial schools spend even less than public schools and do very well. Charter schools also perform https://www.wsj.com/articles/a-tale-of-two-schools-one-building-1444169615.

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