schools recognized for role in boosting Latino performance on AP tests
Los Angeles Times
Feb. 05, 2009
Students at campuses in Long Beach, Fontana and San Ysidro outperform their U.S.
counterparts on exams in Spanish language, Spanish literature and world history,
By Carla Rivera
February 5, 2009
Three public schools in California led the nation in helping Latino students
outperform their counterparts in other states on
Advanced Placement exams in Spanish language,
Spanish literature and world history, according to a report released
Wednesday by the College Board.
Woodrow Wilson High School in Long Beach was cited as the public school with the
largest number of Latino students from the class of 2008 earning a 3 or better
in AP world history. Exams are scored on a scale of 1 to 5, and many colleges
and universities give students course credit for scores of 3 or higher. Advanced
Placement courses offer college-level material in a variety of subjects.
Latino students at Fontana High School outpaced their peers on the
AP Spanish-language exam, and San Ysidro
High School in San Diego had the most Latino students who succeeded on the AP
Spanish literature exam.
Overall, 30.8% of California students in the class of 2008 took at least one AP
exam during high school, compared with 25% nationwide. More than 20% of
California students received a 3, 4 or 5 on at least one exam, ranking
California sixth in the nation. Maryland ranked first, with 23.4% of its
students achieving a 3 or better.
Miguel Solorio, a 2008 graduate of Wilson High who earned a 5 on the AP world
history exam, said the courses were a good steppingstone to his studies at Cal
State Long Beach. Solorio took nine AP courses and earned enough credits to
place him as a junior in only his second semester in college.
"It's a very good foundation of information if you take them seriously," said
Solorio, a history major. "I'm taking all upper-division classes, and in my
Latin American nation class, for example, I already know about decolonization
because of the AP world history class I took."
The success at Wilson, Fontana and San Ysidro reflect a positive trend of
increasing participation and success on AP exams by all ethnic groups and
students who are low- income, College Board officials said. Latinos accounted
for 38.7% of California's public high school class of 2008 and made up 30.8% of
students who scored 3 or better, a slight increase from a year ago.
But Latino and African American students still underperform their white and
Asian peers. Black students, for example, were 7.4% of California's public
school student population but only 3.5% of those taking AP courses in 2008.
Fewer than 2% of black students scored a 3 or better on at least one AP exam.
Success in AP Spanish exams accounts for some of the disparity in progress
between Latino and African American students, said Sue Landers, executive
director for AP policy and publications.
"For Latino students in California, there are a large number participating in
Spanish-language courses, and their success has allowed them to feel more open
to other AP courses and to build that college-level confidence," she said.
One of the key criticisms of the AP program is that school districts in poor,
urban areas have far fewer offerings than more affluent districts. Some private
schools have dropped AP classes, creating similar courses instead that officials
say are more challenging and less dependent on rote learning. Many colleges also
have tightened requirements for giving credit for AP exams.
But the College Board cites research that AP participants have better college
grades and are much more likely to earn a college degree in four years.