While Louisiana has long ranked near the bottom nationally among public high school students who earn college credit, those who did so this year rose by 30 percent, the state Department of Education announced Thursday.

The tests are called Advanced Placement. AP classes can pave the way for college credit for students who score at least a 3 on a test with a score range of 1 to 5.

Advocates say the classes prepare students for college, boost chances students will continue beyond their freshman year and increase the likelihood of graduation.

Last year, the College Board, which oversees the tests, announced that just 6.3 percent of Louisiana’s class of 2012 scored a 3 or higher on the tests, which was higher only than Mississippi.

The national average was 19.5 percent.

Education Superintendent John White said Thursday he is confident the state’s ranking will rise in the fall when officials announce the latest tally.

“We are not far enough from the bottom yet,” he said.

However, 4,542 students scored 3 or higher on AP exams this year, a 30 percent increase over 2013.

The hike last year was 27 percent, according to state Department of Education figures.

Course enrollment rose from 23,485 last year to 28,009 this year.

In a prepared statement, Gov. Bobby Jindal praised the results.

“These gains are proof of our students’ hard work in their AP classes, and this effort will help better prepare them for college and a successful future,” he said.

In 2011, state education leaders announced a five-year plan for high school students to reach the national average.

The results are now linked to school performance scores, and students who score 3 or higher earn points that help determine a school’s state-issued letter grade.

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

In another recent change, the state now pays for the tests for students who meet income rules.

The state also provides training for teachers and administrators, another issue that officials said has long held down Louisiana’s success in AP classes.

Among Baton Rouge area schools, Baton Rouge Magnet High School showed the highest rate of those scoring 3 or higher during the 2013-14 school year — 72.5 percent, or 597 test takers.

Dutchtown High School showed a 67.3 percent passage rate, or 224 tests that produced scores of 3 or more.

Follow Will Sentell on Twitter @WillSentell. For more coverage of Louisiana government and politics, follow our Politics blog at http://blogs.theadvocate.com/politicsblog/