Over the last 10 years, the College Board’s Advanced Placement expansion efforts have nearly doubled the number of students who have been given access to the opportunities AP repeatedly proves to offer, including greater college preparedness and potential cost and time-savings through credit-granting policies. We are especially proud that low-income students have made up a significant part of that growth.
However, we still have a long way to go. The PSAT is currently the best indicator of a student’s potential to succeed in certain AP courses. But last year alone there were nearly 300,000 students with this potential who didn’t take an AP course for which they were qualified.
The gap between earning the opportunity and seizing it is most pronounced among traditionally underserved minority populations. For example, only 3 out of 10 African-American students with high potential for success in AP science course work take an AP science course.
One essential approach is to continue to bring AP into schools with these academically prepared and motivated students, particularly those with large minority and low-income student populations. To that end, we have developed partnerships with the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation to launch 150 new AP courses reaching more than 9,000 low-income students in the next three years, and with Google and DonorsChoose.org to create 500 new AP STEM courses in public schools and enable more women and minorities to excel in science and math. The latter project enabled 10,000 students who did not previously have access to AP courses to take AP exams this past May.
But ironically, our greatest challenge may be to get more qualified students into AP classes in schools where AP already exists. A shocking two-thirds of students with AP potential who do not take AP classes attend schools that do in fact offer AP in their curriculum.
The reasons are complex and manifold, but one thing is clear. According to public opinion research, the most powerful factor that turns a potential AP student into a registered AP student is the spirited encouragement and enthusiastic support of a teacher, counselor, or school administrator. In other words, adults who work in schools have enormous influence and can, by reaching out to a student with AP potential and encouraging her or him to take AP classes, quite literally change the education trajectory of that student. In schools with high percentages of underrepresented students, the cumulative impact can be incalculable. That’s why we started “All In.”
All In is a College Board campaign that aims to unite educators, administrators, communities, and students themselves in an effort to ensure that every African-American, Latino, and Native American student with AP potential enrolls in at least one AP class and that every ounce of talent is given the chance to blossom instead of wither.
In creating All In, we have been inspired by the hundreds of schools and districts that have already made enormous progress by supporting teacher professional development, removing financial barriers, aligning curriculum and instruction, and so much more. And we honor those that have made a concerted effort to identify and recruit students with AP potential, like last year’s Advanced Placement Large District of the Year winner, Texas’s North East Independent School District. Sheila Richards, one of its AP English teachers, describes the overall approach:
“One of our goals is to find students who might not otherwise participate in the program and to bring them in and assure them that we, the adults, are there to help them. We’re the support system and we’re going to use all the tools in the toolbox to make sure that they find success; (we tell the students) yes, it’s difficult, and, yes, you’ll be challenged, but we’re going to be there.”
We invite you to be there for students as well by visiting our website, joining the All In campaign, and helping us get every single qualified student into those AP classrooms. We want all in. No exceptions.
We want all in because we believe that access to opportunity is as inalienable a right as the pursuit of happiness. And for a large portion of our nation’s youth, AP is what gives them a running start.
It’s what led West Leyden High School Class of ’14 graduate Julius Figueroa to speak on a distinguished White House panel last week to discuss how AP paved the way for his acceptance to Columbia University this fall.
It’s what inspired Derrick Simmons, who just graduated from Howard University, to go on to pursue a graduate teaching degree at American University while teaching math to low-income minority students in a Washington, D.C., high school.
And it’s what has made—and continues to make—opportunity and success realities for countless thousands of students. But until these realities are in the vision and reach of every student—regardless of race, background, or family income—our satisfaction with what we have accomplished must be tempered by our obligation to do more.
We share that obligation with the educators, counselors, and administrators at the literal doorsteps of our nation’s youth. We hope that, by joining All In, you will open those doors with the materials, knowledge, and strategies that will help every one of your students step confidently into the future.
Amy Wilkins is the College Board’s Senior Fellow for Social Justice. In this role, she works to evaluate, support and expand the College Board’s social agenda. She also works to elevate and increase awareness of the College Board’s commitment to serving all students, especially students of color and students from low-income and minority communities.