First, the good news – from 2011 to 2012, there was about a 10 percent increase in the number of Latino students taking Advanced Placement (AP) courses, according to data released today in The 9th Annual AP Report to the Nation. In 2011, 153,535 Latino students took an AP exam, and the number increased to 169,521 in 2012. An AP class is a college-level course offered in high school. At the end of the course, students take an exam, and a successful score is a 3 or higher, out of 5. If a student passes, the course counts as college credit in most U.S. colleges and universities, saving the student – and the parents – money. Studies also find students who take AP classes also do better in college, since these rigorous courses expose students to college-level work.
“For Hispanic families, participating in AP expands not only academic and college opportunities, but just as importantly, it connects them to financial benefits that can come with earning AP credit,” said James Montoya, vice president of higher education at the College Board.
In California, Florida and Texas, one out of every three students successfully completing an AP course is Latino. In Arizona it is 1 in 4 and in New York, it is 1 in 10. Overall, the report found too few Latinos participate in AP classes. Only 3 in 10 Latino high school graduates with the potential to take an AP math class ended up taking an AP math exam. This is a missed opportunity; not only does it save students money and credits in college, but data shows that students who get a good score on an AP math exam are more likely to earn degrees in engineering and other sciences.
Among the class of 2012, over 300,000 high school students identified through their PSAT scores as having the potential to take AP classes did not take them, and many were minorities. One of the reasons there are fewer qualified Latino students taking AP courses is that these classes are less available in schools with high numbers of low-income or underserved minority students. While there has been some progress in the past – in 2003, 11.5 percent of AP Exam takers were low-income – the number went up to 26.6 percent in 2012.
Some school districts have made efforts to increase the number of students, especially Latino and other minorities, who are taking and successfully scoring high in AP classes. The North East Independent School District in San Antonio, Texas, the Glendale Union High School District in Arizona and the Chelsea Public School district in Chelsea, Massachusetts were recognized as 2012-13 AP Districts of the Year.