National AP Test Report: Delaware Trails in Advanced Placement

February 9th, 2012

Category: News

Earlier today the College Board released its 8th annual AP report, highlighting data and trends on AP test participation and results of the nation’s 2011 graduates. The report says that the nation’s graduates are not as college ready as they should or need to be—and Delaware is no exception.

DDOE’s press release trumpeted “More Delaware public school students take AP exams.” And while increased participation is important (42 more students than 2010, a 2% increase), the more important statistic is that fewer passed—not just as a proportion (53% vs. 55% in 2010), but as an absolute number (1,172 vs. 1,180 in 2010). In other words, if we assume that the graduating class of 2011 is as smart as that of 2010, this would suggest that all that happened was more students took the test and didn’t pass.

Before continuing, it’s important to note that the report analyzed test scores and results of the 2011 graduating class, meaning students could have taken these tests as early as 2007—before Race to the Top and even earlier reform efforts had had a chance to make an impact. Also, AP programs are not the sole measure of college and career readiness. However, they are a major and established strategy for increasing rigor (many if not most colleges accept AP tests for course credit).

Compared nationally we were:

  • 37th in proportion of tests taken that received passing scores
  • 25th in proportion of graduates who passed at least one AP test (15.5%)
  • 36th in black/African American student equity (defined by the College Board by comparing the proportion of students who graduate versus the proportion of students having passed an AP).
  • 23rd in Hispanic/Latino student equity

Worse still, students aren’t being challenged to take harder courses despite having the potential to do so. College Board analyzed PSAT and SAT tests (including subject tests) and matched them with AP tests, finding that nationally almost 62% of “students with potential” (80% black, 70% Hispanic) didn’t take an AP test. This data wasn’t broken down by state, but the Delaware-specific supplement did show that the 2nd most popular AP exam was for Psychology. More students took that test than any of the science, math, or history tests. Of students who did take those tests, a higher proportion failed.

But there is good news.

One of the central drivers of Delaware’s education reform strategy is to better prepare students for college by increasing the rigor of our coursework. Virtually every district Race to the Top plan allocated funding towards their AP coursework, with some districts such as Colonial going as far as specifically targeting underserved student populations for AP enrollment and support. So there’s reason to be optimistic as Race to the Top implementation continues that future reports will be better.

What were your reactions to the statistics? Any teachers, parents, or students that can help shed light on the state of AP in Delaware?

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Brian Yin



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