Last week, all across America, high school students who took Advanced Placement (AP) tests in May began receiving their scores in the mail.
So now is a good time to take an in-depth look at this rite of passage. It’s grown remarkably popular. The number of AP tests taken rose from one million in 1998 to approaching 2.7 million in 2008.
This article serves both parents wondering what their kids’ AP test strategy should look like, and citizens wanting to learn more about testing so they can evaluate Judge Sonia Sotomayor’s anti-objective examination decision in the Ricci case. (Her Senate hearings begin Monday). ...
Although the College Board is responsible for both the Advanced Placement tests and the much-denounced SAT, the APs have, so far, largely escaped criticism for "disparate impact:” i.e. Non-Asian Minorities doing badly. That’s mostly because few have bothered to look as rigorously at the numbers as we’ll do here.
If you are wondering how your kid’s scores from last May compare to whole population, rest assured that a 3 will put him or her in the top 5 percent of the country on any test and in the top 1 percent on many tests.Above is my graph "2008 AP Scores by Percentile" (click on it to make it big enough to read) For example, U.S. History (the third bar down) is the most widely attempted AP test. Yet, it’s not even tried by 92 percent of the 4.3 million kids in each year’s age cohort. And less than half of those eight percent who try it succeeds in passing it. (By the way, you only get to take each AP test once in a lifetime.)
The most widely passed test in 2008 was English Literature, with 189,000 young people scoring 3s or higher. That sounds good; however, 189,000 is merely 4.4 percent of the relevant population.
As you may have noticed by now, I’m not the most happy-clappy commentator when it comes to evaluating the intellectual capabilities of today’s youth. Yet, even I have to concede that it wouldn’t be impossible to, say, double that 4.4 percent passing rate on English Lit. The key step would be for whites in the middle of the country to imitate Asians on the coasts (currently, Asians take three times as many AP tests per capita as do whites): become more confident about signing up for AP tests and more industrious in studying for them. Asians aren’t exceptionally great at English Lit—but, currently, 9.7 percent of Asians pass that AP versus only 5.4 percent of whites.