Does the AP Achievement Gap Exist at North Point?

Does the AP Achievement Gap Exist at North Point?

Everyone knows that Advanced Placement classes are seen as the crème de la crème of the high school academic experience. Those who possess the talent to enroll and achieve in AP classes are considered to be star students. But nationally, as AP classes have become more emphasized in schools and in college admissions, a conversation has begun over how much they represent American students as a whole. In its 2011 Annual Report, College Board noted that African-Americans are the most underrepresented when comparing their proportion of the student population and their proportion of AP test takers. Does the same trend exist here at North Point?

“It’s better here than what you would probably see in other areas,” said Mr. Lesko, instructor of AP Macroeconomics and AP Microeconomics. Of the fifteen students enrolled in his Macro class, nine are minorities, including students of mixed-race. In the Micro class, 13 of 24 are minorities. Those figures, respectively 60% and 54%, reflect North Point’s overall diversity and suggest that this school may be bucking the national trend.

Upon further inspection, a conclusion isn’t so easy. In the AP Macroeconomics class, there are about 4 students of 15 who are African-American or mixed – 27%. Overall, African-Americans make up 55% of North Point’s students. Here, the issue of diversity matches the problems of the National Achievement gap.

Another case study is AP Biology, instructed by Ms. Craig and Ms. Earnshaw. In Craig’s section of the course, eleven of twenty-two students were minorities – making a perfect 50%. Eight students were African-American or mixed race, and one student was an African-American male. Why the gap? “They’re all sitting in my inclusion biology class,” said Craig. “Coming into high school, they’re not encouraged  to take honors classes.” She noted that preparation for taking AP classes begins a long time in advance, during the transition from middle to high school. “If they haven’t had honors classes previously, they don’t have the skills.”

“What’s considered cool or popular for one group isn’t the same as another group,” Lesko added.

North Point is doing an admirable job in getting minority students as a whole to enroll in AP courses, but there is obviously more work to be done. RECLAIM – the Minority Achievement Committee – is one group that has already begun to look at ways of increasing the participation of  African-American males in AP classes. Hopefully, its work will be successful.