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AP REPORT TO THE NATION: More Students Receive Passing Scores, but Minority Students Remain Underrepresented in Advanced Placement Courses

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“The economic effect of this positive trend on families is significant.”

Of the approximately three million high school students from the Class of 2008, more than 15 percent received at least one score of 3 or higher on an Advanced Placement (AP) exam. That percentage is up from 14.4 percent in 2007 and 12.2 percent in 2003, according to the College Board’s fifth-annual AP Report to the Nation. The report notes that a score of 3 (out of a 5-point scale) is predictive of college success and graduation and often earns students college credit, thereby saving valuable tuition money. Maryland was the top-performing state with 23.4 percent of its students scoring a 3 or higher on an AP exam. New York (23.3 percent) and Virginia (21.3 percent) were second and third, while Connecticut (21.0 percent) and Massachusetts rounded out the top five.

“The economic effect of this positive trend on families is significant,” said Gaston Caperton, president of the College Board. “Performing well on an AP exam is more than just the completion of a rigorous course; it is the bridge to college success, which includes graduating on time.”

According to the report, more and more minority students participate in AP, but these students remain underrepresented. For example, while Hispanic students comprised 15.4 percent of the public school graduating Class of 2008, they only represented 14.8 percent of the AP examinee population. Similarly, African American students made up 14.4 percent of the public school graduating Class of 2008, but only 7.8 percent of the AP examinee population. Asian American students, on the other hand, only made up 5.3 percent of the overall student population, but represent over 10 percent of the AP population.

The College Board also finds what it calls an “equity and excellence gap” among African American, Hispanic, and American Indian students. These gaps occur when traditionally underserved students score a 3 or above at rates lower than the percentage these students represent in the graduating class. The good news is that eighteen states have closed the equity and excellence gap for Hispanic students and sixteen have done so for American Indian and Alaska Native students. Unfortunately, no states have closed the gap for African American students. A snapshot of how certain groups of students perform in selected states appears in the table below.

African American Students

Latino Students

State Percent of Student Population Percent of Students Scoring 3 or Higher Equity and Excellence Gap Eliminated? Percent of Student Population Percent of Students Scoring 3 or Higher Equity and Excellence Gap Eliminated?
Alabama 31.7 7.1 No 1.7 2.8 Yes
Maryland 33.9 9.0 No 6.1 6.9 Yes
New York 14.9 3.5 No 13.2 10.7 No
Oklahoma 10.2 3.6 No 6.6 6.5 No
Oregon 2.1 0.7 No 11.0 4.9 No

“Each year sees more students from diverse backgrounds accomplishing success in AP, but we can’t afford to let ourselves believe equity has been achieved until the demographics of successful AP participation and performance are identical to the demographics of the overall student population,” Caperton said.

The complete report, which includes information on how each state and the District of Columbia performed, is available athttp://tinyurl.com/cfr6yn.

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