WASHINGTON – Maryland has the nation’s second-highest percentage of graduating students who passed Advanced Placement exams, but it still has not closed equity gaps for some minority groups, according to a report released Tuesday.
“We’re thrilled with the results so far but we are not by any means satisfied,” said Bill Reinhard, a spokesman for the Maryland State Department of Education.
Of all graduating Maryland students who took AP exams in 2005, 21 percent received at least a 3 out of the 5-point scale. The College Board’s Advance Placement Report to the Nation figures also showed that, from 2000 to 2005, Maryland’s increase in the percentage of passing students was the greatest across the country.
Qualifying AP test scores can be used for college credit or to boost a student’s college application.
For students who are the first in their families to consider higher education, Reinhard said, the test is the first chance they have to “picture themselves as a college student.” It shows them that they can succeed at that level, he said.
Although Maryland has been successful at getting more students to pass on average, there are still gaps in enrollment and achievement for blacks and American Indians.
The average test score for all black students taking the tests, 2.18, was the lowest of all other test-taking groups, a full level below white and Asian students.
While blacks made up 33.1 percent of the graduating senior classes in 2005, they were underrepresented in AP testing, with just 14.1 percent of them taking the test, according to the report.
“That’s the area where we have the most work to do,” Reinhard said. “We’re not satisfied with that but we are working on it.”
The news for Hispanic students was better in 2005. Hispanics were 4.9 percent of the student population, and 5.5 percent of Maryland student test-takers.
Ayeola Boothe-Kinlaw, the director for equity and access initiatives at the College Board, explained that low participation rates have often been attributed to a lack of preparation in earlier grades.
“Historically, we have not seen a high number of African Americans who take college prep courses,” said Boothe-Kinlaw. “The feeding pattern is not there.”
She did say that she expected the participation gap to close, as more black students are taking the courses that will better prepare them for the AP tests at earlier ages.
Maryland also lost ground on the American Indian equity gap. The percentage of American Indians taking AP tests reflected the overall student population in 2000 but the gap reopened in 2005. While American Indian students made up .4 percent of the graduating student population, they represented only .3 percent of AP examinees.
However, Boothe-Kinlaw cautioned that it was difficult to accurately assess the situation because the number of American Indian students can be so low in certain states that one student could dramatically affect the figures.
The College Board is working on initiatives to boost participation for both American Indian and black student populations.