Reflection: AP Classes

Look in any AP class, and you’ll find that virtually 15 percent of the student body is unrepresented. In our high school, AP classes are, for the most part, exclusively taken by white or Asian students while black and Hispanic students—the 15 percent—are almost nowhere to be found. It’s hard to diagnose this problem solely as a “race problem,” because race and socioeconomic factors are so closely tied together.

PHS provides various forms of financial assistance to students who are taking AP tests and other standardized tests; for example, the exorbitant $95 registration fee can be waived if the student qualifies for financial aid. However, the actual cost of APs is more than just the registration fee. Private tutoring and review books—help that many students at PHS receive—add more to the cost.

As I’ve begun to take more and more AP classes, I’ve noticed that my classmates have become a concentrated, homogenous group of people. From the first day of freshmen year we have always had the extra edge over their peers. They took as many accelerated courses as they could, while others took normal classes or fell behind in remedial classes. But while they continued to take accelerated classes and AP courses, the majority of their black and Hispanic classmates who started out in regular and remedial classes remained in these classes, never joining them.

The unequal representation of the student body in AP classes is a problem whose roots lie deeper than high school, it goes back to middle and even elementary school. The students that were struggling then are the same kids who are struggling now. If they didn’t have the resources that their privileged peers had then, to learn and apply the material being taught in schools, it’s likely that they still lack those resources. More help has to be given to minority students to ensure that they have an equal opportunity to succeed.

An effort must be made to identify and assist minority students who demonstrate the academic ability to partake in AP courses—either by evaluating test scores or GPA—but who may not know what their options are or if they even qualify. There are students to whom “Advanced Placement” is not a phrase they hear frequently, so counselors and administrators need to take the initiative to bring the conversation to students  directly. Everybody deserves equal opportunity and access, even if they do not know that access exists. AP courses are intended to prepare students for the real world, and the class’s ethnic makeup should reflect that world

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