Various Factors Discourage Latino Students From AP Courses

Latino students may be discouraged from enrolling in Advanced Placement courses for a number of reasons.

Students’ perceptions can impact their decisions. They may have a lack of knowledge about the classes or have the impression that the classes will be too challenging.

Other factors are outside of students’ control: teachers and administrators may decide who is allowed–and not allowed– to enroll in such courses.

“Many teachers don’t truly believe that these programs are for all kids or that students of color or low-income kids can succeed in these classes,” Christina Theokas, director of research at The Education Trust, told the New York Times in an article on the subject.

Despite such discouragement, more Latino, black and low-income students are enrolling in AP courses than in the past.

There is criticism of the program, too. Some say AP courses have become watered down as more students have enrolled. Others question whether simply enrolling greater numbers of students in AP courses will make them perform any better in college.

If you are interested in delving further into data on Hispanic student performance, check out the College Board’s annual AP Report to the Nation.

In addition, you can also look into requesting data from your local school district on how many Hispanic students are enrolled in specific AP courses, and what their passing rates (generally considered a 3 or higher) are on the actual exam. Pay particular attention to how many students are taking AP courses in the areas of math and science.

Related Links:

“Pulling a More Diverse Group of Achievers Into the Advanced Placement Pool,” The New York Times.
9th Annual AP Report to the Nation, College Board.

College Board Reveals Advanced Placement Data on Latinos

Every year, the College Board releases its Advanced Placement Report to the Nation. It’s a virtual treasure trove of data on the college preparatory course exams, with information broken out by race and ethnicity, economic status, state and subject area.

According to the College Board’s recently released report, Latinos made up about 18% of AP-exam takers in the Class of 2012.

Among the graduating class of 2012, there were 169,521 Latino graduates who took an AP exam during high school. About 41% of the exams taken by Latinos earned a three or higher, typically considered passing. In comparison, about 63% of exams taken by white students resulted in scores of three or higher.

While Latino participation in AP courses is growing by leaps and bounds, they still are not well represented in math and science coursework.

The Spanish Language exam remained the most popular exam among Latinos in the graduating class of 2012–63,329 students took the course. That means that about 37% of graduating Latinos who took at least one AP exam, had taken an AP Spanish course.

And Latinos made up about 64% of all the Class of 2012 students who took the AP Language Exam. Meanwhile, Latinos made up about 13% of the students who took AB Calculus.

Many educators argue that the class is a gateway to other AP classes for Hispanic students–once they perform well, they tend to go on to enroll in other classes. Students often take the class in middle school and pass the exam. But there are others who are critical of the fact that many of the students already speak Spanish when they are tested.

The four courses behind Spanish in popularity among Latino students were English Language and Composition (59,597), United States History (52,740), English Literature and Composition (50,028), and United States Government and Politics (32,410).

The lesson here is, don’t just ask your school district for an overall passing rate by ethnicity.

If your district is touting that more Latino students are taking AP courses–what courses are they taking and are they passing the exams? Also, what AP courses do the campuses even offer?

Enjoy digging through the data!

Related Links:

– Advanced Placement Report to the Nation.

– “More Latinos taking AP courses, but numbers are still low,” NBC Latino.