Press Release

OAKLAND, CA (February 12, 2010) The College Board released the results of the 2009 Advanced Placement (AP) tests earlier this week with their 6th Annual AP Report to the Nation.

“These AP results serve as yet another example of how California’s schools are failing to teach our African-American and Latino students to the highest levels.  And they are another indicator of the wide and pervasive achievement gaps that plague our state,” said Arun Ramanathan, Executive Director of The Education Trust—West.

Equity among students must mean that the demographics of students who take and succeed on AP tests reflect the demographics of our public schools. This is certainly not the case in California, where Latino and African-American students are underrepresented as AP test-takers, and even more underrepresented as successful test-takers – those who score a 3 or above on at least one test:

  • Latino students represent 40.1 percent of California’s public school graduating class of 2009, but only 33.9 percent of the AP examinee population. And they only represent 31.7% of the successful test-taking population.
  • African-American students represent 7.3 percent of California’s public school graduating class of 2009, but only 3.6 percent of the AP examinee population. And they only represent 2% of the successful test-taking population.

Despite some notable progress, stark equity and excellence gaps remain.

In raw numbers, Latino and African-American student participation in Advanced Placement coursework and tests has increased over the past five years. Yet, even with those increases, only 12 percent of the state’s African-American twelfth graders took at least one AP exam—and only 4 percent succeeded with a score of 3 or higher. And just 20 percent of Latinos took an AP exam this year, with only 12 percent succeeding. It must be additionally noted that for California’s Latinos, much of their success is on the AP Spanish Language course, rather than in a content area such as Calculus or History.

Moving forward, districts can address the AP access gap by ensuring universal free access to the PSAT in the tenth-grade.  Educators can then systematically utilize the results to decrease the number of African-American and Latino students who languish in low-level classes.  Data from the PSAT would allow schools and districts to better identify students that belong in more rigorous AP classes and help reduce tracking based solely on a student demographics.

“Right now, there is unprecedented momentum in our nation and in our state to turn the tide of education for the students who have been historically underserved by our public schools.  This presents a great opportunity, as well as a moral imperative, to move beyond the mere analysis of data toward the implementation of real and radical reforms. The data is not new but the practices we put in place to address the data – and the needs of our students – should be,” concluded Ramanathan.