For some high school juniors and seniors, the opportunity to enroll in Advanced Placement
classes and pass the A.P. exam gives them a head start for college and provides tangible cost savings. As a recent Richmond Times-Dispatch article noted about the Richmond region, “Local public high school students saved more than $9 million in college tuition last year by passing Advanced Placement exams before graduating…”
The article goes on to state, however, that race, class, and location largely influenced which students took the tests and passed. For example, at three of the eight public high schools in the City of Richmond, not one student recorded a passing score on an A.P. test. In Chesterfield, Hanover, and Henrico Counties, “students at schools in older areas and with predominantly minority enrollments took fewer AP classes and performed at lower levels on the exams.”
These trends are both local and national, as reported in an article in the New York Times:“Every year, more than 600,000 academically promising high school students — most of them poor, Latino or black — fail to enroll in Advanced Placement courses, often viewed as head starts for the college-bound.”
Through the Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities’ Educational Equity Initiative, these disparities are explored and addressed head-on. A number of factors are considered, includingbias in tracking when students are in lower grades, the relevance of the curriculum to all students, accessibility of outside test preparation services and resources, and theeffectiveness of outreach to parents, guardians, and families, whose involvement can be critical for student success.
But change is only likely to come when the entire community rallies around the importance of educational equity. As David Myers, assistant superintendent for secondary education in Henrico County Public Schools states, “you can’t look at (the disparity in success) and be happy.You want every student to succeed.”