Monday, February 14, 2011

1/3 of students taking AP exams score a 1

According to a recent report by the College Board, more minority students are taking AP exams however they are still underrepresented both in the classes and in the scores.

According to the report, about 28% of last year's graduating class took at least one AP exam, with 59% of that group earning the score of 3 or above necessary to earn college credit. In terms of demographics, there were some interesting findings. Asian students, who made up 5.5% of the total graduating class, comprised over 10% of students taking AP exams. Hispanic students were about even at 16% of both the graduating class and AP participants. In the rear, African American students made up 14.6% of the overall graduating class but only 8.6% of AP exam takers.

The College Board maintains that much of the disparity comes from local policy decisions. For example, in Texas and Florida where teachers are given funding for summer college courses to help them teach their AP classes, participation and scores of Hispanic students are both higher.

However, the study also suggests that increased participation in AP exams may not be a good thing. Nationally, about a third of students who took the AP exam in chemistry, biology and environmental science earned a 1, the lowest possible score. Some of these scores were attributable to schools that put students in AP classes before the necessary science classes they needed to prepare them.

While higher participation in AP exams can be a feather in a school's hat, forcing students into them before they are ready can have very negative effects. Increasing the representation of minority students taking AP exams should instead be a slower and more personal process that will give more reliable, long-term success.

The fee for each AP exam is $87. Hundreds of thousands of high school students take the AP exam each year. College board is doing quite well for itself.

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