Jefferson County Public Schools has been recognized for the number of African-American students passing Advanced Placement exams.
The gains are slight, but nationwide more black students are being tested in AP but “maintaining the status quo or losing ground” passing rates and/or participation, according to the educational Broad Foundation that release a report this week.
JCPS is among six school districts nationwide where black students made significant gains to close the achievement gap, while maintaining or growing overall AP participation. Students who take an AP exam and score high enough can earn college credit at many higher education institutions.
The Broad Foundation announced this week that JCPS, Cobb County School District in Ga., Fulton County Schools in Ga., Garland Independent School District in Tx., Orange County Public Schools in Fla., and San Diego Unified School District in Ca., are all leaders in figuring out how to encourage and test more African-American students in AP content.
In JCPS, nearly 5,000 students take a least one AP exam and around half of all the exams taken earn a high enough score to receive credit at many colleges and universities. According to district data, four JCPS schools—Ballard, DuPont Manual, Easter, and Male—carry the majority of tests taken and also have some of the highest passing rates.
Since 2008, Kentucky has increased its effort to encourage students to take AP courses and exams. The Advance Kentucky initiative was developed to train teachers and provide professional development in teaching AP and has been touted as a large part of reason for the statewide gains.
As WFPL previously reported, statewide “the data shows the number of African-American and Hispanic students are growing at the fastest rates, but the percentage of students taking AP exams in the two minority groups–when compared to the demographics–still lags behind white students.
The number of African-American students taking AP exams has gone from 686 in 2008 to 1,412 in 2012, and the number of Hispanic students has gone from 283 in 2008 to 754 in 2012.”
Pam Royster , JCPS’ college-and-career readiness specialist, says the six districts that were recognized by the Broad Foundation have focused on improving access and participation for all students.
“Making sure that we’re looking at all of those gaps in all areas of readiness and access has been a focus of most of those districts,” she says.
The Broad Foundation says that in most districts nationwide, AP participation has increased, but exam passing rates have gone down. Only a quarter of the 75 school districts considered by Broad showed increase AP access for black students while maintaining or improving AP exam participation for all students. The rest did not.
Royster said she hopes to encourage and grow AP participation in Jefferson County and to raise the number of underserved students participating.
“The work has just begun, is the message that we’re going to take away. What we’ve started to try to do in the district has been helping, but we still have a long way to go,” she says.
Here’s some information provided by the Board Foundation’s report:
The districts narrowing gaps in access and performance for African-American students on AP exams are all doing some form of the following:
Casting a wider net for academic potential by expanding access to gifted programs, applying gifted strategies to all children, and analyzing student results on precursors to college entrance exams (PSAT or EXPLORE) to identify students.
Beginning rigorous coursework in elementary school.
Instilling confidence in students about their college-going potential and informing parents about the benefits of AP.
Ensuring access to a variety of AP courses.
Providing extra academic and social support to students and extensive professional development to teachers.