For schools with less robust AP programs than Agrawal's, simply adding more advanced courses is not enough, College Board's Packer says. He claims a concerted curriculum should begin in middle school, with step-by-step increases in complexity so students can handle AP courses in high school, and, in turn, courses in college. "What happens too often now is we don't worry about college readiness until it's too late," Packer says. "You put a student in an AP class and it's just too challenging because it's such a jump."
[See how one school district improved—and won $1 million in scholarships.]
This continued attention to improving STEM education, coupled with nationwide initiatives, is reason to be optimistic, says Jeniffer Harper-Taylor, president of the Siemens Foundation. "There's been so much spotlight put on math and science that it really is becoming the rockstar of what's happening in educational research," Harper says. "There can't be enough people that can invest in this for us to be part of the global fabric of leaders in the area of STEM."
See U.S. News's coverage of the country's Best High Schools.
Corrected on 2/15/11: An earlier version of this story did not specify that an AP test-taking statistic reflected math tests only.