The College Board has released its data report regarding the availability of AP coursework in schools across the country, as well as trends in testing performance for the 2021-22 academic year. Much of the report centered on increasing the accessibility of AP courses and diversifying the student cohort taking AP courses and sitting for exams.
Separated into three sections—availability, participation, and performance—the report shows some positive trends in increased access while still noting areas for improvement. According to the College Board’s press release: “Fair access to those life-changing experiences has long been a priority for the AP Program. More than 80 percent of American public high school students now attend schools with five or more AP classes available, the result of a concerted expansion of AP offerings in schools across the nation. But course availability does not always translate into equal access for students, so the AP Program remains focused on encouraging the removal of barriers that stand in the way of equitable opportunity.”
While, as the press release notes, 80% of high school students attend schools that offer AP courses, only 48% of public high schools offer the curriculum, meaning that while just under half of high schools in the nation offer AP courses, the majority of the US population attends these large schools. This also means that larger schools are more likely to offer the courses than smaller schools. In addition, in 2021-22, Native American students were the group with the least access to AP courses, with only slightly more than half of Native American students attending a school that offers 5 or more AP courses. The report found significant increases in participation from a number of different racial groups over the last ten years—the number of Latino students participating in AP courses increased 83%, Asian students by 47%, Black students by 22% and white students by 5%.
The report further found increases in the number of credit qualifying AP scores earned by students across all groups surveyed over the 2021 cycles. The most significant increase was a 35% jump in the number of credit-qualifying scores earned amongst Black students over the last year. This metric is particularly significant, as credit qualifying scores can allow students to complete their degrees in less than four years, thereby saving money and entering the workforce sooner.
The report comes at a contentious time for Advanced Placement curriculum. The last six months have seen heated debates regarding the content of the AP’s newest course, AP African American Studies, after Republican lawmakers in Florida and other conservative activists objected to the inclusion of topics such as systemic racism, intersectionality, and Black Lives Matter. After watering down the curriculum in response to Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ insistence that the course would not be allowed in Florida schools, the new curriculum was likewise criticized by African American Studies scholars and other educational activists. Brown University professor Matthew Guterl slammed the College Board as “supplicants to Ron DeSantis,” and organizations such as PEN America, the National Parents Union, and CFT, a California affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers, all condemned the changes.
Additionally, Annie Abrams’ recently released book Shortchanged: How Advanced Placement Cheats Students has revived conversation around the issues surrounding AP curriculum and testing, as Abrams alleges that Advanced Placement has increasingly strayed from the College Board’s original intent for the program due to the revenue it generates. The report released by College Board last week appears to emphasize the continued relevance of the program, particularly for students from diverse backgrounds.