Mobile — Mobile County Public Schools reports that it has seen a “significant” increase in the number of students earning college credit by taking Advanced Placement (AP) classes compared to just last year.

According to data provided through the schools system, 179 students across the district were able to obtain college credit based on their AP exam results in three or more subjects at not cost to them. That number is up from 144 students that met the same mark in 2014.

“I think it’s wonderful for the students’ achievements to be recognized. It is a credit to their work and also to the work of their teachers,” said MCPSS Superintendent Martha Peek. “It is evident these are young people well on their way to post-secondary success.”

AP Scholars in the Mobile County Public School System celebrate together on Aug. 4 in Mobile. (Courtesy)

AP Scholars in the Mobile County Public School System celebrate together on Aug. 4 in Mobile. (Courtesy)

AP courses are college-level classes taught in high school. Each course culminates with a May exam designed to measure each student’s mastery of the subject. Exams are graded on a scale of 1-5, with scores of 3, 4 or 5 considered passing or “qualifying” scores. More than 90 percent of four-year colleges in the United States give students credit, advanced placement or both on the basis of AP Exam scores.

Generally, AP courses are free, but the examination — a requirement to earn any college credit — can typically cost around $91 per exam in Alabama. However, in Mobile County the district pays the student’s exam fees. Rebates for some of that cost can be recouped through the Alabama Department of Education if certain criteria are met, according to the educational nonprofit College Board.

Alltogether, 1,453 students took 2,715 exams in 2014.

According to the College Board, a record number of MCPSS students achieved qualifying scores on Advanced Placement (AP) exams. Students who take the college-level classes and pass the related exam can receive college credit for their scores, depending on the college they choose to attend after high school.

This year, 895 scores qualified, which is up from 778 in 2014. The AP exam in any give subject is scored on a 1-5 scale, and this year MCPSS also saw a 14 percent increase in the number of 4s and 5s.

“We have made great strides this year. Schools that have performed well in the past performed even better this year, and those schools that did not perform as well have upped their game this year,” said Toni Worsham, the system’s secondary coordinator for curriculum and instruction. “But, we still have a ways to go, so we will not stop working and improving. What we really want is to be the best-performing system, not just in Alabama, but in the entire United States.”

The trends of increased qualifying scores held true for all subgroups, including black or African American, Hispanic, Asian, Native American and white students. The district’s goal is to expand access and improve outcomes in college-level courses among all groups of students to prepare them for college and career success.

The district provides teacher training and mentoring, Saturday study session — attended by hundreds of students last year — and other academic methods of support for students.

All 12 MCPSS high schools offer AP courses in more than two dozen subjects that include English, history, math, science, foreign languages and art among others.

Baker High School is one of only five high schools in Alabama to be named an AP Capstone School and, can therefore, offer several AP courses that aren’t available elsewhere.

The system has put emphasis on the AP program as a springboard for college preparedness, which could serve a number of students well in their academic careers.

Alltogether, the Class of 2015 earned $97 million in college scholarships last year, and in addition to 11,162 nationally recognized career credentials.