The number of Louisiana high school students who qualified for college credit this year rose by 24.6 percent, which is tops in the nation, the state Department of Education announced Tuesday.

However, the latest snapshot also shows that only 4.1 percent of juniors and seniors earned qualifying scores, which is 49th nationally and ahead of only Mississippi.

Louisiana has long ranked at or near the bottom nationally among students who earn the credit through the exam, which is called Advanced Placement.

Scores on the AP exam range from 1 to 5.

Students have to score at least a 3 to earn college credit, and what schools accept varies.

In Louisiana, those who did so rose from 5,144 to 6,407 this year amid a state push to boost the number of test takers through financial and other incentives.

The state now ranks 38th in its percentage of high school juniors and seniors who took an AP exam, compared to 50th in 2012.

The rate of student participation among those two classes also rose by 4 percentage points, to 13.6 percent.

“These compelling numbers signal a strong showing for our students,” state Superintendent of Education John White said in a prepared statement.

“We still have a long way to go, but these increases show that we are closing the gap,” White said.

The results are based on data collected by the College Board, which oversees the tests.

The state has taken a wide range of steps since 2011 to improve AP participation.

The state pays for low-income students to take the exam.

AP results are also linked to a school’s annual rating.

In addition, more than 500 teachers and administrators took part in summer AP training earlier this year.

A shortage of teachers to lead the classes has been a longtime complaint.

Also, a 2013 state law gives AP classes additional weight in calculating grade-point averages for TOPS, the state-funded college scholarship program.

The department said African-American students who scored 3 or higher rose by 30.7 percent — 541 to 707.

The number of African-American students who took the test increased 36 percent — 2,645 to 3,598.

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