City to Expand AP Classes to Bridge Racial Gap

Automotive High School

Automotive High School in Williamsburg/Greenpoint, Brooklyn, is one of the schools that is part of the AP expansion initiative. (Photo by A.J. Kandy, Creative Commons license)

In an effort to get students of color involved in higher-level schoolwork, education officials are expanding the presence of Advanced Placement (AP) courses in public schools to 55 more high schools, reports Geoff Decker for GothamSchools.

The initiative will work in collaboration with the College Board, which runs the AP tests and whose president, David Coleman, is the architect behind New York State’s new Common Core standards.

Almost 58,000 students were enrolled in AP courses in 2012. Now, the city is spending $7 million on an Advanced Placement Expansion Initiative to bring 120 sections of AP classes to 55 high schools. Most of the new classes are in the subjects of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, where white and Asian students far outpace black and Hispanic students.

AP courses, which involve more writing and critical thinking than standard high school classes, gives students the opportunity to earn college credit before graduating high school, provided that the they get a certain score on their AP exams. However, a racial disparity exists not just in the classes but when it comes time for the exam.

But the exams are optional, and nationally, fewer black and Hispanic who take AP classes sit for the exams at the end, according to Trevor Packer, a vice president at College Board. Locally, while students of all races have taken and passed more AP exams in recent years, black and Hispanic students have continued to pass far less often than white and Asian students.

The racial AP achievement gap is most pronounced in science and math courses, Packer said today.

City school officials want to target high schools that have shied away from AP classes. Out of the 55 schools slated for the classes, 40 percent have never offered them before the 2011-2012 school year and none had offered AP classes in science or math.

The new AP expansion will provide students yet another opportunity to earn college credit while still attending high school. Right now, College Now is the city’s largest program to provide college credits, with 20,000 students participating from over 350 high schools.

Chancellor Dennis Walcott (right) moderating a panel about AP courses at NYU. Park East High School senior Yailizabeth Castillo sits to his left.(Photo via GothamSchools)

Chancellor Dennis Walcott (right) moderating a panel about AP courses at NYU. Park East High School senior Yailizabeth Castillo sits to his left. (Photo via GothamSchools)

At a launch event for the initiative on September 30, which saw DOE Chancellor Dennis Walcott moderating a panel about AP courses, one student’s explanation of why she’s going for AP courses shines light on some of the differences between the two programs.

“You can email your professor for College Now but you won’t actually be able to see him until that day of the week,” said Yailizabeth Castillo, a Park East senior explaining why she prefers the daily AP classes to the weekly college classes. Castillo took three College Now courses over the last two school years but is currently enrolled in three AP courses this year. “For AP courses, you have your AP teachers there with you every single day so if you’re not sure about something you could easily just contact them or come earlier in the day to speak to them,” she said.

Decker includes a list of the schools slated for AP classes under the new initiative.

Here is a list of all participating schools, which range from highly selective and specialized schools, such as Brooklyn Latin, to non-selective schools such Park East:

Academy for Young Writers
Alfred E. Smith Career and Technical Education High School
Astor Collegiate Academy
August Martin High School
Automotive High School
Bronx High School for Writing and Communication Arts
Bronx Lab School
Bronx Latin
Bronx School of Law and Finance
Brooklyn Academy of Science and the Environment
Brooklyn Collegiate: A College Board School
Brooklyn Lab School
Brooklyn Latin
Brooklyn School for Global Studies
Brooklyn School for Music & Theatre
Brooklyn Studio Secondary School
Brooklyn Theatre Arts High School
Business of Sports School
Central Park East High School
Channel View School for Research
Coalition School for Social Change
Cypress Hills Collegiate Preparatory School
East New York Family Academy
East-West School of International Studies
EBC High School for Public Service–Bushwick
Frederick Douglass Academy II Secondary School
Frederick Douglass Academy VI High School
George Washington Carver High School for the Sciences
Green School: An Academy for Environmental Careers
Health Opportunities High School
High School for Civil Rights
High School for Law Enforcement and Public Safety
High School for Medical Professions
High School of Arts and Technology
Mathematics, Science Research and Technology Magnet High School
N.Y.C. Museum School
New Design High School
New Heights Academy Charter School
Pace High School
Park East High School
Performing Arts and Technology High School
Queens Vocational and Technical High School
Ralph R. McKee Career and Technical Education High School
Repertory Company High School for Theatre Arts
School for International Studies
School of the Future High School
Science, Technology and Research Early College High School at Erasmus Secondary School for Journalism The College Academy
The Marie Curie School for Medicine, Nursing, and Health Professions
The Urban Assembly School for Law and Justice
University Heights Secondary School
Urban Assembly New York Harbor School
W. H. Maxwell Career and Technical Education High School
William E. Grady Career and Technical Education High School
Wings Academy World Academy for Total Community Health High School
Young Women’s Leadership School

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