Possible African-American History AP?

While you can take AP classes in 37 subjects (and still only have 2 of them count at Wesleyan), you can’t take an AP on African-American history. Linda Lane thinks that it should be an exam offered and in response critics have begun calling the validity of the Advanced Placement program in general into question:

The difference of opinion points to a number of questions that surround the AP program: Is its purpose to help students place out of introductory courses or to encourage them to study with greater rigor in high school (or both)? Why do some AP programs attract more members of certain ethnic or racial groups than others? Why are black students significantly less likely than the population as a whole to take AP courses? With many competitive colleges expecting applicants to have AP courses on their transcripts, should the College Board be trying new strategies to get more black students involved in the program?

The idea of adding African-American history is the brainchild of Linda Lane, deputy superintendent for instruction of the Pittsburgh Public Schools.

“One of our district goals is to dramatically increase enrollment of African-American enrollment in AP classes, and having worked on this issue before, I know that a lot of African-American students have the ability to tackle AP but are reluctant, so I was trying to think about how we could bridge them into the program,” she said.

Lane stressed that she doesn’t want black students to study only their own history. “It’s not that African-American students don’t need to take Chinese and calculus and physics. But having an African-American course among those offerings sends a powerful message” that their history matters, she said. “It connects students with a tradition of scholarship that they don’t always see.”

Hmm, adding some weight to Lane’s argument, the racial and ethnic breakdown of AP exam takers:

Race and Ethnicity of AP Exam Test Takers, 2006

Subject

White

Asian

Latino

Black

Calculus BC (advanced)

58.6%

26.8%

4.6%

2.1%

English language and composition

61.7%

10.7%

11.8%

6.9%

European history

67.9%

12.4%

7.5%

3.5%

Government and politics of the U.S.

62.4%

12.2%

10.7%

5.6%

Macroeconomics

55.4%

18.8%

11.4%

4.5%

Physics — electricity and magnetism

57.3%

27.5%

3.9%

1.7%

Spanish literature

13.1%

3.7%

75.1%

0.7%

U.S. history

64.2%

11.5%

9.8%

6.0%

Wow. Read College Board’s response.

Er, I think the AP program is kinda bonkers, personally. I’m of the opinion that high school has been destroyed in the wake of competitive college admissions (seriously, don’t get me started) and the AP program is just one of the worst contributors to its demise. I know too many people who took more than 10 AP classes, destroyed themselves in the process and could only apply maybe one or two of them to count towards their college education. It’s just not worth it.

But as for an African-American History AP? I figure, if the breadth of the program already extends to 37 subjects, we’re not just talking about getting out of intro geneds anymore. Colleges use APs to tell whether or not they should accept a kid and while I think it’s insane to think this, they often have a warped understanding that the more AP classes a kid takes, the more qualified he is for college. And if Lane’s point is to make a test more so influential in college admission decisions more attractive to low-income African-Americans, then I’m all for it.

I think it’s short-sighted for College Board to reason that colleges themselves don’t want this test. Maybe the professors don’t. But the admissions offices are different entities with their own standards. And this is College Board’s gamefield–admissions. They should know better.

So as for College Board’s reasoning, I think that’s bunk. But I think College Board itself is bunk. So my only hestitation is clumping another subject, especially something that could be as analytically complex as African-American Studies, under their testing jurisdiction. But that argument is sort of under the radar so long as AP courses are so signficant for college admissions.

Interesting problem, to say the least.

12 thoughts on “Possible African-American History AP?

  1. Anonymous

    I think that the AP courses are a legitimate way to get kids to, well, learn more. Seriously, I learned significantly more in my AP classes than in my non-AP classes – they were just taught at a higher level with higher expectations, and it worked. So I have difficulty seeing why adding an AP class in a legitimate subject taught at most colleges as an intro class would be a bad thing.

  2. Anonymous

    I think that the AP courses are a legitimate way to get kids to, well, learn more. Seriously, I learned significantly more in my AP classes than in my non-AP classes – they were just taught at a higher level with higher expectations, and it worked. So I have difficulty seeing why adding an AP class in a legitimate subject taught at most colleges as an intro class would be a bad thing.

  3. Anonymous

    I think that the AP courses are a legitimate way to get kids to, well, learn more. Seriously, I learned significantly more in my AP classes than in my non-AP classes – they were just taught at a higher level with higher expectations, and it worked. So I have difficulty seeing why adding an AP class in a legitimate subject taught at most colleges as an intro class would be a bad thing.

  4. Anthony

    Did you know that the AP Program was developed as a cold war weapon against the Russians?”The Moar You Know!”

  5. Anthony

    Did you know that the AP Program was developed as a cold war weapon against the Russians?”The Moar You Know!”

  6. Anthony

    Did you know that the AP Program was developed as a cold war weapon against the Russians?

    “The Moar You Know!”

  7. Anonymous

    I took a few AP courses, but I didn’t take the exam for most of them.The Spanish Literature AP course was ridiculous. I’m Mexican, but I hardly identified with that group. I wanted to sincerely improve my Spanish, but all the other Mexican students were there for an easy A. My two best friends were the only white students in the class.

  8. Anonymous

    I took a few AP courses, but I didn’t take the exam for most of them.The Spanish Literature AP course was ridiculous. I’m Mexican, but I hardly identified with that group. I wanted to sincerely improve my Spanish, but all the other Mexican students were there for an easy A. My two best friends were the only white students in the class.

  9. Anonymous

    I took a few AP courses, but I didn’t take the exam for most of them.

    The Spanish Literature AP course was ridiculous. I’m Mexican, but I hardly identified with that group. I wanted to sincerely improve my Spanish, but all the other Mexican students were there for an easy A. My two best friends were the only white students in the class.

  10. Anonymous

    as a spanish speaking latino, i didnt take the spanish lit exam because my highschool had some weird prereqs that couldnt fit into my schedule. but the majority who took it were of latino descent, as the percentages show.thinking about APs now is so weird now that it almost really doesnt matter at this point in the game.

  11. Anonymous

    as a spanish speaking latino, i didnt take the spanish lit exam because my highschool had some weird prereqs that couldnt fit into my schedule. but the majority who took it were of latino descent, as the percentages show.thinking about APs now is so weird now that it almost really doesnt matter at this point in the game.

  12. Anonymous

    as a spanish speaking latino, i didnt take the spanish lit exam because my highschool had some weird prereqs that couldnt fit into my schedule. but the majority who took it were of latino descent, as the percentages show.

    thinking about APs now is so weird now that it almost really doesnt matter at this point in the game.

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