Blog: Latino Ed Beat

Dallas Latino, Black Students No. 1 for Passing AP Exams

Source: Flickr/ amanda_munoz (CC BY 2.0)

Latino and black students in the Dallas Independent School District lead the nation in the number of students who pass Advanced Placement exams. A recent story by KERA News explores the reasons for this, uncovering a unique approach that’s worth sharing.

At W.T. White High School, where 75 percent of the students are Latino and 12 percent are black, the Dallas-based nonprofit National Math + Science Initiative is paying the exam fees and offering Saturday study sessions. If students pass the exams, they not only get college credit, but also earn $100 in cash for themselves and their teachers also get $100 per student.

Because of these opportunities, more students take the exam than just those who are likely to pass. While the percentage of kids who pass is lower, the overall number of passing students is higher, KERA explains. 

The first year NMSI partnered with Dallas schools, 75 black and Latino students passed AP exams. That number grew to 1,270 in 2014. The writers of Dallas ISD’s publication “The Hub” did the math: Together, those students saved approximately $2.1 million in college tuition costs.

NMSI Chief Academic Officer Gregg Fleisher is trying to prepare more students for STEM — science, technology, engineering and math — careers through the program. He told KERA, “There are plenty of studies that show that students who take these exams have a greater likelihood of matriculating into a STEM field and graduating from a STEM field.”

In general, across the United States, minority students who pass AP exams before college are four times as likely to graduate than those who don’t. 

Fleisher is all for having twice as many students take the test and not succeed than have only top students take it and pass. If nothing else, students benefit from the higher-level instruction.

“What is better for our country — to have twice as many proficient and 20 more who tried it? Quite frankly, I think 12 out of 40 is better than 10 out of 10,” he said.