The rigorous coursework in the Advanced Placement (AP) program has proven to build a good foundation for high school students, who plan to attend college after graduation. Most college and universities give course credit for AP exam scores of three or higher — students score from one to five on the exam. Even students who score one or two on the exam have proven to be better prepared for college-level work, than students who do not participate in the program.
A report by the national College Board, which oversees the AP program across the nation, was recently released. It showed the number of students taking the exams and the diversity representation, though it concentrates only on Hispanic, African American, and Native American student groups.
For the schools in Texas, participation in the AP exams has increased by 61 percent since the year 2001. Hispanics and African American students, however, were underrepresented in the AP exams.
African Americans students within schools in Texas had the biggest gap between total student population in the state and the percentage taking the AP exams. The African American students make up 13.5 percent of the total population, but only 6.8 percent took the exams — a disparity of almost half of the African American students opting not to participate in the AP program.
The Hispanic gap is closing in the Texas schools with 35 percent Hispanic students in the total population and 32.2 percent taking the exams.
The Texas schools have totally eliminated any gap for its Native American students with 0.3 percent of the population and 0.5 percent taking the AP exams.
Texas schools’ Commissioner of Education Shirley J. Neeley stated that they need to do a better job encouraging its minority students in middle school, so that they elect to take the AP classes and exams in high school.
The Texas schools students taking AP exams last year were 54,706 Caucasians, 34,976 Hispanics, 10,007 Asian Americans, 6,826 African Americans, 514 Native Americans, and 5,234 who marked “other” or gave no response for ethnicity. Minorities and “other” made up about 49 percent of the Texas schools testing population, as compared to the national average of 33.5 percent.
There were 204,403 AP exams taken by Texas schools students last year, many taking multiple exams. They scored three or higher on 99,428 of them. The Texas schools designated:
o 8,861 students as AP Scholars for scoring three or higher on three or more exams;
o 3,152 as AP Scholars with Honors for:
An average score of at least 3.25 on all exams, and
Scores of three or higher on four or more exams; o 4,447 as AP Scholars with Distinction for:
An average score of at least 3.5 on all exams, and
Scores of three or higher on five or more exams;
The national College Board named 752 Texas schools students as National Scholars for earning an average score of at least four on all exams, with scores of four or higher on eight or more AP exams.
Though these results are impressive, the Texas schools know they must continue to expand the overall enrollment, as well as increase the diversity levels in the AP program. State incentives make the AP program more accessible to students by lowering the per exam fee by $30, so that no student pays more than $52 for an AP exam. Further, combined funding from federal, state and local subsidies reduces the per exam fee to only $5 for low-income students.
Additionally, the Texas schools have expanded its course offerings to entice more students to participate and used state incentives to train more teachers for the AP program.
With post-graduation success depending so much on a college degree, the AP coursework and exams are essential for all students to succeed in college. Minorities must be equally represented in Advanced Placement classes. The Texas schools still have work to do.