A Surge in Black Participation in Advanced Placement Courses

Over the past quarter-century there has been a huge increase in the number of black students who are taking challenging Advanced Placement courses in high school. AP courses are equivalent to introductory courses in particular subject areas at the college level.  

In 1985 there were only 2,768 black students taking AP courses in the United States. At that time blacks made up only one percent of the more than 270,000 AP students. By 1990 black participation in AP programs had more than doubled. That year black students took more than 6,800 AP exams. Over the next five years, the number of blacks enrolled in AP courses more than quadrupled. In 1997 blacks took 34,514 AP exams, up more than fivefold from 1990. By 2005 the number of AP exams taken by black students had doubled again. Last year blacks took more than 80,000 AP exams. In 2005 blacks took 5.2 percent of all AP examinations administered in the United States, up from 1 percent a quarter-century ago.

But despite this major progress, blacks still lag far behind whites in participation in the AP program. In contrast, we note that African Americans now make up 11 percent of all SAT test takers and more than 13 percent of all high school students in the nation.

Copyright © 2006. The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education. All rights reserved.