Hispanic students make strides on AP exams, College Board reports
The number of Hispanic students taking AP exams has increased dramatically, the College Board says. Hispanic students are a bigger percentage of those passing the exams than ever before.
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Questions about recruitment
The move to increase access to the AP exam has not been without criticism. Robert Schaeffer, public-education director of the National Center for Fair and Open Testing, says he has reservations about the recruitment campaign.Skip to next paragraph
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"It's questionable whether there's real educational value in getting everybody to take the AP exam even if they are not academically prepared," he says in an interview. "It's not clear that this benefits anyone except for the College Board."
However, AP calculus teacher Dixie Ross disagrees. Her school in Pflugerville, Texas, is very diverse, with a third of students identifying themselves as Hispanic and a quarter as African-American, she says. Her classes were once filled almost exclusively with white students but now include more minorities, a change she welcomes. The increased number of minority AP test takers is a sign of progress, Ms. Ross says in an interview.
“Historically, we’ve had huge wells of untapped talent, because we didn’t let people develop themselves if they looked different,” she says. “That’s been our country’s loss. We need to educate people from all walks of life.”
Students say AP helps
Ross says her students have told her that their AP experiences helped them succeed in college, and she says this was even true of some students who did not pass the exam.
Many academics have argued that those who perform well on AP tests are better prepared for higher education than those who do not, including researchers at the National Center for Educational Accountability and the College Board. Studies from both groups have shown a direct correlation between AP test performance and college graduation rates.
But Mr. Schaeffer argues that expanding the number of AP test takers has "diluted the pool" and produced high failure rates, particularly in math and science. According to the College Board's own report, the percentage of AP test takers who passed a single exam has dipped since 2001, from 64.3 percent to 59.6 percent. The report also acknowledges that more than 50 percent of biology AP test takers fail the exam.
"The increase in AP test takers is not the tremendous leap forward that people who sell the AP exam say it is," he said. "The AP is being pushed as yet another magic bullet solution to the problems in education, but is it really helpful for kids who are extremely unlikely to succeed" on the test?