More Latino and Native American students are taking Advanced Placement courses and scoring well on AP exams, while African-American students still lag behind, according to a report issued Wednesday.
“The data in this report indicate that these (African-American) students are not yet always receiving adequate preparation for the rigors of a college-level course,” said Trevor Packer, vice president of the College Board’s Advanced Placement Program. “When students of any background receive preparation for AP, there are differentials in performance.”
“Major initiatives remain needed to ensure adequate preparation of students in middle school, ninth and 10th grades so that all students will have an equitable chance of success when they go on to take AP courses and exams later in high school,” added Packer.
In the fifth annual “AP Report to the Nation,” research shows that, despite strides made by educators to provide traditionally underrepresented students with access to AP courses, African-American students are less likely to pass the exams or even take the classes. Published by the College Board, the nonprofit association that monitors the AP Program, the report indicates that many African-American students are often not receiving adequate preparation for the courses, thus setting them up to fail. The College Board’s research shows that students who have taken AP courses cite lack of confidence and readiness as reasons for not taking the exams.
Packer noted that the reason the gap has significantly closed between White and Hispanic students is because initiatives have been implemented in states that have large Hispanic student populations. States like Florida, Texas and California have all been involved in AP-related multi-year student reform initiatives that use AP as a capstone. States with large African-American populations are just beginning to address disparities, he said.
For example, Alabama, which has introduced state-backed initiatives, shows the biggest improvement in AP enrollment and success among African-American students. “It’s in the degree of effort and policy that a state has put into place,” Packer said during a telephone conference.
Students who take advanced placement courses are often able to save money because they can earn college credits while still in high school, and students who perform well on these tests often finish college within four years. An extra year or two of college can cost tens of thousands of dollars, thus making it impossible for low-income students to attain a college degree.
In addition to potentially reducing costs, AP courses also create a sense of readiness and confidence in ability to perform. The report shows an overall upward trend across the nation in terms of AP participation and academic success.
The College Board encouraged states to fund efforts such as teacher workshops in how to prepare students for AP exams, as well as training on how to integrate Advanced Placement curriculums into the classroom.
The federal government backs the AP Incentive Program, which specifically targets schools serving low-income students. State policies should establish curriculums in middle school to prepare students to succeed in high school AP courses, Packer said.
“If we look across the states where we’re seeing steady and consistent expansion of success on AP exams, there are some common factors in each of these states,” Packer said. “There is a commitment at the state level by policy makers to insist that AP is part of their secondary school agenda.”
On the Web: “AP Report to the Nation” is available at www.collegeboard.com.
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