BALTIMORE – Participation and scores in key college placement tests have fallen for Maryland’s black public school students, according to a new report to the State Board of Education.
Only 862 of 10,235 Maryland students who sat for the Advanced Placement exams in May were black, a 1.6 percent decrease from last year.
And compared to 1995, the number of black students with above average scores in the exams decreased by 6.4 percent, versus an increase of 8.4 percent for black students nationally.
The exams are administered once a year to high school students enrolled in college-level courses such as computer science, calculus and English literature and composition. The tests allow seniors to receive college credit if they score a grade of 3 or better.
The annual report, released Tuesday at the State Board of Education monthly meeting, has board members concerned.
“I don’t know the answer, but this is an issue we can’t ignore,” said Christopher T. Cross, board president. “I live in Montgomery County, and in that school system black students’ SAT scores suffered a big decline. So I wasn’t so much surprised as I am deeply concerned to hear about this. We don’t want this to become a trend in Maryland….
“We shouldn’t be declining,” Cross said. “We should at least be maintaining.”
The drop in participation rates and scores comes after several years of gains by black Maryland high school students.
The number with above average scores, for instance, has increased steadily — 7.8 percent in 1993, 36.9 percent in 1994 and 25 percent in 1995. Even the 1996 numbers represent a 72.5 percent increase in above average scores compared with 1992.
And Maryland’s participation rate for black students remains higher than the national average, however. Black students made up 8.4 percent of the most recent group to take the exams here, versus 4.5 percent of the students who were tested across the U.S.
“We like the exams in Maryland because they give us a way to measure and evaluate our [advanced placement] programs,” said Ron Peiffer, assistant state superintendent.
“But there are some factors that we don’t know about that influence these results. Some schools promote their AP programs more than others. Then there is a cost factor associated with taking these exams. And some students may not be able to afford to take the tests.”
Each test cost $35. Students can take an exam for each advanced placement course they are enrolled in.
“This report will be distributed to district superintendents so we can see where the problems are,” Cross said. “Then we want to get data from other states to see how we are doing…not just in one area but in all areas of the test.”
Maryland received high marks in other areas of the report.
* Participation of Hispanic students in Maryland increased by 6.5 percent.
* The 10,235 students who took the exam in May was a 5.2 percent increase from 1995.
* The participation of male students was up by 6.5 percent; and 4.2 percent for females. * About 11,056 exams received scores graded 3, 4 or 5 — enabling the students to earn college credit. This represents a 7 percent increase. -30-