Education Week - March 1, 2017 - 6
CHARTING AP TEST GROWTH
The number of students from low-income households who
take Advanced Placement exams has been rising steadily.
The growth has been helped in part by federal subsidies
that states and districts have used to offset the costs
of the tests to students. Those funds are now part of a
broader block grant, but they aren't available until the
2017-18 school year.
SOURCE: College Board
More Students Take AP Tests-and More Are Low-Income
Yet average scores
are holding steady
By Jaclyn Zubrzycki
The number of high school students taking Advanced Placement
exams continued to grow last year,
and more of the test-takers were
from low-income families, according to the College Board's latest
annual report on the program.
In the high school graduating
class of 2016, 1.1 million students
took at least one Advanced Placement test at some point in their
high school careers, more than
25,000 more than last year. And
more than 20 percent of that graduating class earned a score of 3 or
higher on a scale of 1 to 5 on at
least one AP exam-thus opening
up the possibility for them to receive college credit for their work in
high school, according to the College
Board, the New York City-based
organization that administers the
The College Board's statistics
show that certain demographic
groups, such as African-American
students, are still underrepresented among all test-takers. But
the growth last year in the number of test-takers from low-income
households continues a long-term
trend for the program: While in
2003 just over 94,000 students
from low-income families took an
AP exam, in the class of 2016, more
than 554,500 test-takers were categorized as such.
Trevor Packer, the College Board
vice president who runs the AP
program, said in a media conference call that the average score on
all AP exams has held fairly steady
and was actually higher in 2016
than in some years when far fewer
students took the test.
David Coleman, the president
and CEO of the College Board,
said the program's success in increasing the number of students
who take the tests while maintaining rigor bucks conventional
"Whatever people say in public
or in private, most believe if you
increase access in a big way, you're
likely to compromise on quality,"
Will Numbers Drop?
But the news of the program's
continued growth was tinged this
year with concern about the possible effects of a change in federal
funding for Advanced Placement.
A federal grant program that had
subsidized AP tests for low-income
students was replaced in the Every
Student Succeeds Act by a block-
NEW E-BOOK FROM EDUCATION WEEK PRESS
gets to the heart of a
law set to reshape the
education policy landscape
for years to come.
6 | EDUCATION WEEK | March 1, 2017 | www.edweek.org
grant program that could be used
to subsidize tests, among other purposes-but the funds in that grant
program don't have to be used to
subsidize the tests and aren't available until the 2017-18 school year.
Coleman said the College Board
is concerned the change will lead
to a drop in test-taking among lowincome students.
This year, however, the program's
Variation in states' participation
and performance on the exams
may be influenced by some state
policy factors. For instance, some
states have passed laws that require state colleges and universities to offer credit to students who
have passed their AP exam-an incentive for students taking an AP
course to sit for the exam.
Susan F. Lusi, the president of
year and cautioned against making direct comparisons to previous
years. But its data show that just
6.4 percent of tests were taken by
black students in 2016, for instance,
while closer to 16 percent of public
school students are black. The mean
scores of different groups also varied: Black students' mean test score
was 2.03 on the 5-point scale, while
Asian students' mean score was the
The fact that more than 1 in 5 public school graduates passed an AP exam
in 2016 pushes back against the 'public schools are failing' narrative."
American Enterprise Institute
steady scores and growing numbers of test-takers were seen as a
positive indicator of educational
Nat Malkus, a research fellow at
the American Enterprise Institute,
said it is "hard to overstate" the
difficulty of expanding the tests'
access to underserved students on
a national scale while also maintaining their rigor.
Malkus wrote a report last year
that used external data to examine
the academic qualiﬁcations of AP
students. He found that the pool
of students taking AP exams remained academically strong even
as the program grew to include a
wider range of students.
"The fact that more than 1 in 5
public school graduates passed
an AP exam in 2016 pushes back
against the 'public schools are failing' narrative," he said.
Nationwide, 21.9 percent of the
3.1 million students who graduated from high school in 2016
earned a 3 or higher on at least
one Advanced Placement exam, the
College Board reports.
Among individual states, Massachusetts led the way, with 31 percent of all public school students
graduating from high school scoring a 3 or better.
Mass Insight Education, a nonproﬁt
consulting firm, said that Bay
State students' high scores may
be evidence of the state's overall
investments in education. But
the state has also been home to a
nearly decade-long effort to expand
access to AP among underserved
students. Mass Insight Education runs a program that has offered support for AP students and
teachers in nearly one-third of the
state's high schools. The program
targeted schools with more lowincome students and schools that
hadn't previously offered AP.
Still, Lusi said, "there is work to
do" to make AP opportunities more
equitable for all students. Expanding AP access is "crucially important," she said, especially as the
number of low-income students in
public schools and the diversity of
those students increase, and as gaps
in earnings and opportunities between college graduates and those
with a high school diploma widen.
Like Coleman, Lusi is concerned
about the impact of the loss of
the federal subsidy on test-taking among low-income students:
"Those exams are not affordable
to low-income families." In many
states, exam fees are expected to
rise from $5 or $15 to $53.
The College Board changed its
reporting procedures on race and
ethnicity for the 2015-16 school
highest, at 3.25.
At the press conference, Coleman and Packer also shared information about the ﬁrst year of AP
Computer Science Principles-the
largest launch of a course in the
College Board's history and part of
an effort to expand access to and
interest in computer science for
girls and students of color. More
than 2,500 schools are offering the
program this year.
Data collected by the College
Board during the 2015-16 pilot
phase of Computer Science Principles show that:
was 16 percent for the course, compared with 4 percent for Computer
Science A, which was the only computer science course the program
offered before last year. Computer
Science A is an intensive Javaprogramming course that tends to
attract students with prior knowledge of the subject.
s (ISPANIC STUDENT PARTICIPATION
was 18 percent in the new course,
compared with 9 percent in Computer Science A.
s 'IRLS PARTICIPATION WAS PERcent in the new course, compared
with 22 percent in Computer Science A.
Visit the CURRICULUM MATTERS blog,
which tracks news and trends on this
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - March 1, 2017
Education Week - March 1, 2017
Districts, Advocates Warily Await Health-Care Law Overhaul
DIGITAL DIRECTIONS: Teachers Turning To Digital Games For Civics Lessons
Educators Join New Fight to Stop Gun Bills
A State of Limbo for DACA Teachers
News in Brief
More Students Take AP Tests—and More Are Low-Income
District Leaders Weigh How—and Whether —to Engage DeVos
Can Schools Offer Sanctuary?
Attention Turns to Courts in Battle Over Transgender Rights
Congress May Turn Focus to Higher Education Law
Spec. Ed. Aid a Candidate For Choice?
High Court Backs Family in Case Of Service Dog at School
Transition Update: Trump Administration
Funding Formulas: States Wrangle Over K-12 Aid
State of the States
Maria Ferguson: In Standards Battle, States Should Stay the Course
Jia Lok Pratt: ‘Why Can’t All Schools Succeed?’
Ron Wolk: End the Charter Schools War
TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
Anthony Kim: Predictions for American Education in 2017
Education Week - March 1, 2017 - A State of Limbo for DACA Teachers
Education Week - March 1, 2017 - 2
Education Week - March 1, 2017 - 3
Education Week - March 1, 2017 - News in Brief
Education Week - March 1, 2017 - Report Roundup
Education Week - March 1, 2017 - More Students Take AP Tests—and More Are Low-Income
Education Week - March 1, 2017 - District Leaders Weigh How—and Whether —to Engage DeVos
Education Week - March 1, 2017 - 8
Education Week - March 1, 2017 - 9
Education Week - March 1, 2017 - 10
Education Week - March 1, 2017 - 11
Education Week - March 1, 2017 - Can Schools Offer Sanctuary?
Education Week - March 1, 2017 - 13
Education Week - March 1, 2017 - Congress May Turn Focus to Higher Education Law
Education Week - March 1, 2017 - Spec. Ed. Aid a Candidate For Choice?
Education Week - March 1, 2017 - High Court Backs Family in Case Of Service Dog at School
Education Week - March 1, 2017 - Transition Update: Trump Administration
Education Week - March 1, 2017 - State of the States
Education Week - March 1, 2017 - 19
Education Week - March 1, 2017 - Jia Lok Pratt: ‘Why Can’t All Schools Succeed?’
Education Week - March 1, 2017 - Ron Wolk: End the Charter Schools War
Education Week - March 1, 2017 - Letters
Education Week - March 1, 2017 - 23
Education Week - March 1, 2017 - TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
Education Week - March 1, 2017 - 25
Education Week - March 1, 2017 - 26
Education Week - March 1, 2017 - 27
Education Week - March 1, 2017 - Anthony Kim: Predictions for American Education in 2017
Education Week - March 1, 2017 - CW1
Education Week - March 1, 2017 - CW2
Education Week - March 1, 2017 - CW3
Education Week - March 1, 2017 - CW4