Blog: Latino Ed Beat

Latino, Black Advanced Placement Scores Highest in California

Flickr/Alberto G.

Latino and black students who took and passed Advanced Placement exams in California outscored their peers in other parts of the country. 

Sonali Kohli reported Wednesday for the Los Angeles Times that of the California Latino students who took at least one AP test, 53.1 percent scored a 3 or higher, compared with 50 percent elsewhere. The contrast between California black students and their peers outside the state was even more dramatic: nearly 43 percent of black students tested in California received a 3 or higher, while the percentage elsewhere was around 32.

AP exams are graded on a five-point scale, and students who earn a 3 are deemed “qualified,” or capable of doing the work of an introductory level college course of the same subject matter.

Kohli writes that while the passing rates of Latino and black students in the Los Angeles Unified School District is lower than the state’s overall figures, the racial makeup of AP classes in that district has grown from 60 percent Latino during the 2007-08 school year to 68 percent in 2014-15. But only 7 percent of students enrolled in AP courses are black, though black students represent 10 percent of the district’s student population. 

California also saw the highest AP scores for white students – with 73 percent receiving a 3 or higher — but a slightly lower percentage among Asian test-takers outside the state.

According to the College Board, the nonprofit organization behind Advanced Placement, 2.5 million students took AP exams this year — a record number up from 2.3 million in 2014 and just under 2 million in 2011.

Earlier this year, College Board announced its “All In” initiative to recruit higher numbers of qualified Latino, black and Native American students to take advanced-level courses through eliminating barriers the students might face. 

In California, districts are “removing stringent entrance requirements such as grades, admission tests and teacher recommendations that disproportionately keep students of color out of these classes,” Kohli reports.

Nicole Mirra, an assistant professor at the University of Texas at El Paso who studies disparities among California high schools, told the Los Angeles Times that low-income and minority students should begin preparation for AP classes as early as elementary school.