Blog: Latino Ed Beat

Few Latino Students Take AP Computer Science

While Latinos are making great strides in taking more Advanced Placement courses and exams, they still lag significantly in some specific courses.

For example, while many Hispanic students take AP Spanish classes, very few are taking computer science. Education Week reported on an analysis by Georgia Tech scientist Barbara Ericson of 2013 trends in computer science test-takers. She found that in eight states, no Hispanic students took the exam, including Kansas and Nebraska.

Nationally, of the 30,000 students taking AP computer science in 2013, only about 8 percent were Latino. Education Week reported that College Board spokeswoman Deborah Davis said in an email that, “We were not surprised by Barbara Ericson’s findings because unfortunately, computing courses have historically been dominated by white, male students.”

Indeed, the analysis found only about 20 percent of the test-takers were female and three percent were black. Admittedly, the states with the largest Hispanic student populations fared much better. Texas had 751 students take the exam — the most in the nation. About 18 percent of Texas students taking the computer science exam were Hispanic. California was a distant second with 392 Hispanic students tested, Florida with 259, and New York trailing with 150 students.

Ericson noted that one challenge is that the courses are offered more commonly in suburban and private schools than in urban low-income schools. Additionally, passing rates for minority students tend to be lower. One thing I think we should all take away from this — beyond the headlines about the increasing numbers of Hispanics taking AP exams, we should also focus on which exams they are not taking. If your local school district is touting that they have increased the number of Hispanics taking AP exams, ask what courses those students are taking.

In urban high schools in your area with high percentages of Hispanic students, are math or science AP courses even offered? When I was a reporter, I requested the AP score reports for an entire suburban school district, broken down by course, ethnicity, and scores for each individual high school. This was very illuminating. It’s worth delving down into the subject-specific areas. They can reveal where the greatest achievement gaps and enrollment disparities exist.

Related Links: – “No Girls, Blacks, or Hispanics Take AP Computer Science Exam in Some States,” Education Week. -

9th Annual Report to the Nation, College Board