AP Test Results Only Reveal a Tale of Two School Systems: Why Is the City Celebrating Slight Gains?

Twink Williams Burns, NY Daily News, October 21, 2015

Last week, Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña released a statement celebrating citywide gains in Advanced Placement test scores for the second year in a row. In particular, the chancellor’s press release noted that more black and Latino students are taking AP exams than last year.

But a quick peek behind the veil of a heartening press release reveals a very different, very alarming picture: More minority students may be taking AP tests, but they are not passing them. Data show that 97% of our black students and 95% of our Hispanic students citywide are unprepared to pass a single AP exam.

This is devastating when we consider that AP exams are one of the ways that students nationwide are gauged for college readiness. We are being asked to celebrate the fact that only 5% of our city’s Hispanic students and 3% of our black students are ready for college.

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But it’s clear that vast inequalities exist across our great city. For example, in the very same public school system, the percentage of white students passing the AP exam is four times higher than the percentage of black students, and the percentage of Asian students passing is more than six times higher.

However, instead of treating this inequality with the seriousness it deserves, the city is asking us to applaud because this year’s AP passing rates for black and Latino youth improved, if just barely. That minuscule growth is far from laudatory: This year’s 3% pass rate among black students is an increase from just 2% last year, and the 5% Hispanic pass rate is up from an abysmal 4% last year.

If we continue to improve by one percentage point every year, it will take until the year 2062 for even half of the city’s black students to demonstrate college readiness. That’s a full 47 years. That’s generations of lost students. Can our city afford to wait that long?

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New York City faces an education crisis. If we, as educators–regardless of the type of school we work in–do not believe that we can and must do better, we are not worthy of our jobs. If we do not believe that all students are capable of achieving more, we are not worthy of our students.

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