My local Florida newspaper published an article today about AP scores and how some teachers have very high pass rates while others have very low ones. The article then continues to discuss how the teachers affect student scores. One teacher was quoted as saying that a lower pass rate was acceptable for a first year AP teacher but after that it should start to rise.
While it is very true that the quality of an AP teacher is a huge part of how well students will do on their AP exams, the pass rate numbers are not always as cut and dry as they might seem. As a former AP Government teacher, I always prided myself on having pass rates that were higher than the state and national averages. However, over the years that I taught AP, I talked to many different teachers at different schools during AP conferences and workshops. One of the biggest complaints that some of these teachers had was that different schools have different philosophies of who gets to take AP. In fact, even within a school some teachers have a greater say over who gets in their class than others.
There was one AP teacher that I knew who always had a 100% pass rate. He hand selected his students and had between 6 and 8 who actually took the AP exam each year. This was not typical at our school. My AP students had to have taken Honors classes and maintained a B average to be accepted into the course. However, a parent could waiver in if their child did not meet these prerequisites.
However, there are some schools that have very few prerequisites for AP. The philosophy is that even if an Honors level student gets a 2 on the AP exam, they will get more out of the class than if they had taken a traditional Honors course. While this might be true for the student, it does hurt the passing percentages. I heard numerous teachers complain about this and the fact that they were judged partially based on this.
In conclusion, the teachers are huge in determining student success. However, at the same time, pass rates need to be analyzed based on the requirements that were used to allow students to get into the AP course to begin with.