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AP Growth and Inequities

February 11, 2014

The College Board is releasing data today showing sustained growth over the last decade in the number of students taking Advanced Placement exams, with more than 1 million members of the high school class of 2013 taking AP exams.

That's nearly double the 514,000 from the class of 2003.

The data also show a substantial increase in the number of low-income students taking AP exams -- from 58,549 to 275,864 during that decade. As applicants to competitive colleges have added more and more AP courses to their high school schedules, the question of whether the program favors wealthier students has become a big one for the College Board, which has pushed to expand access to the courses.

The data also show, however, a more than doubling in the number of AP examinees who only achieve test scores of less than 3 on the exam. (Typically a score of three is the minimum required for college credit, and critics of the program have said that increases in the number of sub-3 scores suggest many students may not be gaining from the courses, a contention disputed by the College Board.) These figures grew from 182,429 to 395,925 during the last decade.

Likewise, the number of AP exams with scores of less than 3 also more than doubled, from 521,620 to 1,345,988.

The data also show significant gaps in participation rates and success rates (scores of 3 and higher) on the AP exams, by racial and ethnic group. White and Asian students are more likely to participate and to get good scores. Black students are much less likely to do so.

AP Participation and Success Rates by Race and Ethnicity

  % of High School Seniors % Taking AP Exams % Scoring 3 or Higher
American Indian 1.0% 0.6% 0.5%
Asian 5.9% 10.7% 12.7%
Black 14.5% 9.2% 4.6%
Latino 18,9% 18.8% 16.9%
White 58.3% 55.9% 61.3%

 

 

 

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