Minorities who graduated from a public high school in Georgia in 2013 had far less success than their white peers on Advanced Placement exams, according to a report released Monday by the College Board.
White graduates were almost five times as likely as black students, seven times as likely as Hispanic students and five times as likely as Asian-American graduates to have gotten a passing grade on an AP exam, underscoring the academic challenges that remain in making sure minority students are prepared for college.
“The achievement gap that exists in Advanced Placement mirrors the broader achievement gap across the nation,” Georgia Superintendent John Barge said. “The ‘cure’ is for teachers from elementary school on up to focus on real rigor and to use authentic assessments in classrooms that measure problem solving, critical thinking, and strong writing skills.”
Advanced Placement courses, more rigorous than other types of courses and offered in a variety of academic subjects, are capped by an exam that is scored on a 1 to 5 scale, with 3 serving as a passing score that can earn a student college credit.
Only 13.3 percent of Georgia’s black graduates in 2013 got a passing grade on an AP exam, a low pass rate that was still third-best for black graduates in the United States.
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Among Hispanic graduates, 8.6 percent got a passing grade on an AP exam, while some 11.6 percent of Asian-American students got a passing grade.
White graduates had a pass rate of 62.4 percent. With minority students accounting for a big chunk of those who took the tests, which are widely viewed as important preparation for college, the state’s overall pass rate was 21.3 percent.
Despite the gap in AP performance, Barge said he is heartened by the increased participation in AP courses.
“Our schools are doing a great job seeking out students with potential for Advanced Placement, even though those students might not envision themselves as AP material,” he said.
The number of black and Hispanic students taking AP exams has risen dramatically over the past decade. In 2003, 2,638 black graduates had taken an AP exam. In 2013, that number had risen to 8,943.
Among Hispanics, the number has gone from 415 in 2003 to 2,918 in 2013.
The College Board did not release district-level results, and most school districts in Georgia were closed Monday because of the Presidents’ Day holiday.
Chastity Van Dyke, an 18-year old freshman at the University of Georgia, took seven AP exams at Roswell High. She received a passing score of 3 or higher on each exam.
She said she always took the highest-level classes available, something that raised eyebrows among her black friends.
“A few of my friends who are African-American would tell me and one of my Hispanic friends that we were always the ones doing homework and doing well, as if that was not the expected thing,” said Van Dyke, who is African-American.
Van Dyke, who plans to pursue a dual major in advertising and marketing, said she has gotten off to a strong start in college, earning all A’s in her first semester. AP coursework helped get her ready, she said.
“I think I may have managed to get in (to UGA), but I think it would have been harder to adjust academically,” she said.
Van Dyke said more black and Hispanic students would consider taking AP classes if, as freshmen and sophomores, they were encouraged to do so.
AP exams cost $89. The state Department of Education spent $1.3 million last school year to pay for one AP exam for students who qualified for free or reduced priced meals. Some school districts offered additional assistance.
Still, the cost of exams remains a barrier for many black and Hispanic students.
“I know that was a deterring factor for other African-American students,” Van Dyke said.