Blog: Latino Ed Beat

NYC Schools Expand Access to AP Courses As Latino Performance and Participation Rates Rise

The New York City Department of Education is investing $1.6 million to expand access to Advanced Placement courses for the city’s black and Latino students, the New York Daily News reported last week.

Starting in September, the new Lead Higher initiative — a partnership between the city and the nonprofit Equal Opportunity Schools — will add tutoring, teacher training and more AP seats in high schools with large numbers of black and Hispanic students across the city. The initiative builds on Mayor Bill de Blasio’s AP for All plan that expanded AP classes to 63 high schools in 2016.

The move comes as record numbers of New York City students are taking and passing AP exams. According to the city’s education department, the number of students taking at least one AP exam in 2016 rose 8.4 percent, from 41,419 students in 2015 to 44,906. Passing rates kept pace with the increase in participation, rising 8.2 percent.

Gains in participation and performance were largest for black and Latino students, who saw increased participation rates of 14.1 and 9.9 percent, respectively. Performance gains were even higher: Among black students, 18 percent more passed at least one AP exam in 2016 compared to the previous year, as did 10.8 percent more Hispanic students.

It’s worth noting that passage rates are important here. As efforts to expand access to AP courses to underserved students have become more widespread, these increases often have coincided with lower passing rates on AP exams, journalists learned at an EWA seminar on college and career readiness last year. 

“We are shaking the foundation of this system by putting rigorous AP courses in every neighborhood in every borough,” de Blasio said in a statement. “By providing the coursework needed for college and careers for all New York City students, we are sending a message that we believe in them and support them on the path to success. The increases in participation and performance we see today – particularly among black and Hispanic students – show that we’re moving in the direction of equity and excellence, and I look forward to the work ahead.”

Still, in a school system where 68 percent of students were black and Hispanic in 2014-15, the number of white and Asian students who passed AP exams that year was nearly double the number of black and Latino students who passed, the Daily News points out.

The DOE’s increased efforts to target black and Hispanic students could change that. De Blasio’s plan projects that 75 percent of New York City students will have access to at least five AP classes by fall 2018 with a projected goal to reach all students by 2021.

Under Lead Higher, the Daily News reports, another seven schools will roll out additional AP resources in 2019, and the program may be expanded further if it yields strong results.