The Mississippi Department of Education announced Wednesday that Mississippi is seeing increased enrollment in Advanced Placement courses, and more students are passing the exams. Mississippi is not the most popular state for Advanced Placement (AP), but it is making progress. From the 2014-2015 school years, the number of students taking AP tests increased by 23.1 per cent. In 2015-2016, 12,455 AP exams were taken by students, a 23 percent increase from the previous year. Meanwhile, the number of students who scored a 3 or greater, or qualifying score (or scoring a 3,7), increased 11.1 per cent to 3,707. Qualifying scores can be used to earn college credit at the university or college they attend. Research shows that students who earn a qualifying score are more likely than others to do well in college, to take more courses in the same subject, and to graduate college within four years. The Mississippi Department of Education launched an AP program last year. Ocean Springs school districts are now ahead of the game thanks to a grant from National Math and Science Initiative. This group works to prepare students for STEM careers. The $500,000 grant was awarded to the district, which has approximately 6,300 students. This grant was awarded to districts that provide services for military students. It paid for teacher training, teacher incentives, and teacher incentive programs. Students who score a 3 on the AP exam or more received $100. Teachers who teach students with a 3 or above received $100. The district also removed any requirements such as a GPA to allow students to take AP classes. Assistant Superintendent Dr. Christopher Williams stated that the district went from 17 students to nearly 500 students taking AP classes over the last three years. “And we went seven students passing the science and math AP tests to 156 within three years.” The district continues to push AP despite the expiration of the grant. It even has a pre-AP English Language Arts curriculum at its middle school. Williams says that the district has funds set aside to train students and pay for their exam costs. The next goal of the company is to increase participation in AP courses and exams by students from low and minority backgrounds. “Now that three years have passed, we’ve noticed that students from low socioeconomic status and minority are not taking these courses at a level comparable to their peers. Williams explained that all eighth-grade students will take the PSAT this year and will use those results to help us target AP potential. However, statewide minority student participation rose by 37.9%, with 18.7% for African-American students, and 26.4% for low-income students who received a federal subsidy to cover the cost of the $93 exam fees. The AP experience is valuable even if students don’t earn a qualifying score. It exposes students to college level material,” Carey Wright, State Superintendent of Education said. “…We need to provide challenging learning opportunities for all students and encourage them to take part. Mississippi students have the potential to succeed in AP.