District of Columbia Public Schools saw a 73 percent increase in the number of students taking Advanced Placement exams since 2010, as well as a 34 percent increase in the number of students passing these exams, though their passing rate is still well below the national average, according to The Washington Post.
Nearly 3,000 District students took AP tests in May, a success that DCPS spokesperson Janae Hinson attributed to the collective effort of area guidance counselors, teachers and students.
“Over the past few years, DCPS guidance counselors have encouraged students to take AP courses, teachers have helped raised the bar by teaching these rigorous courses, and more students have risen to the challenge,” Hinson wrote in an email to The Hoya.
Despite District students passing their AP tests at higher rates than five years ago, their 35 percent passage rate is far below the national average of 60 percent.
Although participation in AP courses has also increased in the District’s lower-income schools, there is still a wide gap between students taking the tests and students passing the tests. At Anacostia High School, 47 students took AP tests in 2016 and none passed. At Ballou High School, 74 students took AP tests this year and only one passed.
Anacostia High School and Ballou High School did not respond to a request for comment as of 2:30 a.m.
Hinson said DCPS is committed to raising this percentage through improving resources and training for AP teachers and developing pre-AP courses to ensure that students are prepared.
“DC Public Schools is committed to equity and access, and we’re proud of the progress we’ve made in the number of students taking AP courses and AP exams,” Hinson wrote. “In addition, AP courses are open to all students who are willing to put forth the work that it takes to succeed in a college-level class while still in high school. Though we aspire for all students to pass their exams, we believe that every student benefits from the experience and rigor of taking college-level courses in high school.”
This academic year, every DCPS high school is required to offer at least eight AP courses. However, some schools such as Woodrow Wilson High School have more than 30 AP course offerings for students. Wilson High School had the highest number of students in D.C. taking at least one exam this year, an accomplishment Principal Kimberly Martin attributes to school counselors and teachers identifying the best courses for students to take within the program.
“I think part of the success is that our counselors really do a great job of trying to encourage students who have an interest or a passion in a particular subject area to pursue the most rigorous content in that course area,” Martin said. “Also, our teachers are very well-equipped at recognizing a student’s ability in, say, history or English or math or science and then moving those students to the right area as far as the most challenging AP class that they can take.”
This year also marks the first time in over 15 years Wilson High School has had over 50 percent of its students receive a passing score of 3 or above on their AP exams. However, Martin stressed that Wilson High School supports all students in their AP program.
“We’re incredibly proud of that number, but we’re also proud of the student who gives it their very best shot, maybe a student who is learning English as a second language or a student who has an [Individualized Education Plan] and says ‘I’m going to give this a shot no matter what’ and gets exposure to content that is very rich, to classroom discussions that are complex, rich and multifaceted, just like they will receive in college” Martin said.
At the School Without Walls, a District magnet school, students must take “AP Language and Composition” as well as “AP World History” in order to graduate. Principal Richard Trogisch said this helps give students a leg up when applying to college, but he added that the School Without Walls’ primary focus is introducing students to rigorous material.
“It gets students prepared to the rigor of college, and it introduces them to more thought-provoking critical thinking and problem-solving that wasn’t necessarily involved in our traditional curriculum,” Trogisch said.
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