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Point of View: Oklahoma must open doors to Advanced Placement

Rep. Rhonda Baker
Rep. Rhonda Baker

While Oklahoma families know college is often the most direct pathway to the top-earning careers, college affordability remains a major concern preventing many young people from pursuing a post-secondary education.

One way to give students a jump on college, while making it more affordable, is to give them access to college-level coursework like Advanced Placement, or AP, while in high school. I’ve introduced House Bill 3400, which would require every high school in Oklahoma to offer at least four AP courses by the 2024-25 school year. Along with improving access to challenging coursework, HB 3400 sends a strong signal to job creators: Oklahoma is committed to training the workforce of tomorrow. For example, despite aerospace becoming the No. 2 economic driver in Oklahoma, we continue to have a concerning shortage of aerospace engineers. As Oklahoma strives to become a top 10 state, we must build a pipeline of workers ready to take on the jobs of the 21st century.

Nearly six in 10 Oklahoma schools do not offer a single AP class. Of the 290 high schools that don't offer AP, nearly 90% are located in rural areas or small towns. Put another way, 70% of Oklahoma's rural and small-town high schools do not offer any AP courses. Additionally, of the high schools that offer at least four AP courses, only 12% offer a course in all four of the core content areas: math, science, English and social studies.

This is especially sobering given new research released from the College Board and Princeton University showing the positive impact taking just one AP course has on a student’s potential to succeed in college. The study’s authors found students who completed one AP course and the subsequent exam were three percentage points more likely to graduate from college within four years. Students who took an AP exam and scored a 3, 4, or 5 (the scores for which our colleges and universities grant credit), were more likely to graduate in four years compared to students who took no AP at all.

HB 3400 builds upon several investments the state has made to expand AP, including allocating funding for teacher training, test fee assistance for low-income students, and grants for districts to start new AP programs. Oklahomans overwhelmingly agree these are positive developments. A recent survey revealed that of those familiar with AP classes, nearly 90% believe funding AP is important — and this feeling was shared by respondents of all ages and income levels.

Oklahoma is on the rise, and there is no better way to invest in its future than in the children who will become tomorrow’s leaders. Let’s ensure that all students in the state have the same access to AP courses so that none of them gets left behind.

Baker, R-Yukon, is chairwoman of the Common Education Committee in the Oklahoma House of Representatives.