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City sees gains on AP tests, but mixed news for black students

New data from the College Board on last year’s class of graduating seniors shows that while more city students are taking and passing Advanced Placement courses, black students are still underrepresented in both groups.

From 2009 to 2010, the number of New York City high school seniors taking at least one AP test increased by six percent from roughly 13,697 to 14,522. That was matched by a slight increase of 6.8 percent in the number of students who passed at least one test during high school. It’s impossible to say what the overall passage rate was, as the city’s data doesn’t indicate how students performed on the exams they took.

Those gains have been made mainly by Asian and Hispanic students. Both groups are taking Advanced Placement tests and passing them at significantly higher rates than in the past, while participation and passage rates among white students have stagnated.

Black students remain underrepresented among test-takers and test-passers. In 2010, black students accounted for about a third of the senior class, but they made up roughly 19 percent of AP exam takers and just 10 percent of students who passed the test. This trend was mirrored in the national results as well.

In comparison, Hispanic students also made up about a third of 2010’s senior class, but they composed about 31 percent of test-takers and nearly 30 percent of students who passed a test.

According to an analysis of AP test data by the city, black students have seen improvements since 2002 — the first year of mayoral control. More of them are sitting for the exams and slightly more are passing them.

Still smarting from reports that less than a quarter of city high school students graduated prepared for college in 2009, Chancellor Cathie Black said that the AP exam figures were promising.

“These results show that our work on college-readiness is already bearing fruit, and our students should be proud of their achievements,” Black said in a statement. “But we have to do much more work to ensure all of our students are ready to succeed in college.”

The DOE’s analysis only shows how many students took at least one test and how many passed at least one test during high school, but does not indicate how students performed on the tests they took, making it difficult to come up with a citywide passage rate.

DOE spokesman Matthew Mittenthal said the city would release more data, such as how students performed on individual tests, later on. The College Board delivers city students’ results via a paper pamphlet and city officials are still combing through the data.

Next year’s progress reports, which assign an A-to-F grade to each school, will factor in students’ passage rates on AP tests and how many are taking them.

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