[caption id="attachment_99993" align="alignleft" width="150" caption="Last year, 18 percent of U.S. high school graduates passed at least one AP exam, up from 11 percent a decade ago."][/caption]

Not long ago, Advanced Placement exams were mostly for top students looking to challenge themselves and get a head start on college credit. Not anymore.

In the next two weeks, 2 million students will take 3.7 million end-of-year AP exams—figures well over double those from a decade ago. With no national curriculum, AP has become the de facto gold standard for high school rigor. States and high schools...

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