AP test gap persists

Feb. 10, 2013 @ 09:45 PM

Although the percentage of local high school seniors taking and passing Advanced Placement exams is higher than the national average, black students continue to trail in performance on the college-level tests.
In 2012, about 45 percent of Guilford seniors took at least one exam, compared to 30 percent of seniors in the state and nation. But research shows that black students have the lowest participation and passage rates of any student group in the district. For example, 9 percent of black seniors taking tests passed at least one exam last year, versus 48 percent of white seniors.
“This gap comes from the overall achievement gap,” Gongshu Zhang, district chief research and accountability officer, said during a weekend Board of Education retreat. “We need to start earlier with students on this. We have done this and we will see results in years to come.”
Superintendent Mo Green said the district is implementing programs, including a pilot project focused on African-American males, aimed at closing achievement gaps.
While 44 percent of white male students taking an AP test passed in 2012, just 7 percent of African-American males passed. Among poorer black males it was 4 percent.
“We are looking at the data in as many areas as we can,” Green said. “We are putting race in the issue. We are going deeper in this area.”
Board member Deena Hayes said black students have been at the bottom for too long.
“It should be part of your work every day to look at this data,” Hayes said. “Your job is to see this and work with it.”
Middle-class black students are losing ground compared to their white peers.
“African-American students get behind others at grade level,” Hayes said. “This is not happening to others.”
The gap between poor black and white students was 11 points. The district’s focus on helping poor children could be the reason.
“We put great effort and time on those students to try to lift them,” Zhang said, “but it’s not enough.”
Strategies for closing the achievement gap include doing a better job of steering students to the right courses, including Algebra I and geometry.  Of 3,800 students eligible, 610 were not placed in Algebra I and geometry courses, according to a review.
“And we need support groups for those who struggle in the courses,” said Jocelyn Becoats, district chief curriculum and organizational development officer. “Some students who take the courses don’t take the exams.”
Teachers at 12 elementary schools, including four in High Point, are being trained to recognize gifted underprivileged students so they can get more challenging work.
“We are looking for and creating pathways for students who have been under served,” Becoats said.

AP Test Data
Pass: About 28 percent of Guilford seniors passed at least one Advanced Placement exam in 2011 while only 18 percent of students nationwide and across the state did so.

Gap:  The achievement gap between middle-class white and black students was 35 percentage points in 2012.