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The number of North Dakota students who took Advanced Placement classes in math, science and English and earned qualifying scores increased by 36 percent this past school year — the highest percentage increase in the country.

Fargo North High School saw a 91 percent increase in the number of students who obtained a score of three or higher on the exams. Principal Andy Dahlen said his school typically has about 60 to 80 qualifying scores, but this past fall that number jumped to 155.

The rise in AP scores is due to a partnership between the state and the National Math and Science Initiative, State Superintendent Kirsten Baesler said Thursday at the 2017 Fall Educators Conference in Bismarck.

NMSI, a Dallas nonprofit, aims to boost the number of students who take AP exams by hosting programs in schools across the country with low AP exam rates, including in North Dakota. The NMSI partnership in the state began two years ago with a $13 million investment from an ExxonMobil subsidiary, XTO Energy.

Education and business leaders gathered Thursday at the Bismarck Event Center to present the latest results to the hundreds of educators attending the three-day conference. Gov. Doug Burgum lauded the partnership with NMSI and ExxonMobil and said he hopes to continue the momentum.

NMSI's programs provide new classroom equipment, teacher training and Saturday study sessions for students and teachers leading up to exam time. In addition, the program pays $100 to each student who passes, as well as providing an incentive to the teachers.

Dahlen credited his school's increase in qualifying scores to a group of teachers who took the professional development training program offered through NMSI, as well as the extra study sessions for students.

Baesler said, over the past two years, the programs have yielded students earning qualifying scores on 3,853 AP exams that gave them college credit.

"At average cost of $300 per credit, this has saved North Dakota students and their families $3.5 million in tuition," Baesler said.

The five schools that participated in NMSI's College Readiness program this past school year were Century High School and Legacy High School in Bismarck, Fargo North High School, Magic City Campus High School in Minot and West Fargo Sheyenne High School.

At those five schools, AP qualifying scores increased by 67 percent, Matthew Randazzo, CEO of NMSI said Thursday.

NMSI's three-year College Readiness program will continue this school year at Bismarck High School, Devils Lake High School, Mandan High School, West Fargo High School, Red River High School, Central High School in Grand Forks, Northern Cass High School in Arthur and South High School in Fargo.

(Reach Blair Emerson at 701-250-8251 or