Two Suburban Counties Near Washington, D.C., Achieve Remarkable Success in Improving Black Student Performance on AP Examinations

According to a study conducted by the Washington Post, black students in high schools in Fairfax County, Virginia, and Montgomery County, Maryland, are doing well on Advanced Placement examinations. Advanced Placement courses are considered equivalent to introductory courses at the college level.

Nationwide, only one in 100 black high school students earns a passing grade on an AP test. In both Fairfax and Montgomery counties, more than 8 of every 100 black students pass an AP examination.

Overall, the two counties are relatively affluent but there are many lower-middle-class and middle-class black families. But the counties have made a special effort to recruit black students to take AP courses, whereas in many school districts black students are steered away from such courses because teachers have low expectations of what black students can achieve.

Both counties track promising black students in accelerated programs in elementary school. Middle school students who are on the fast track are given special study skills and critical thinking classes to prepare them for the advanced curriculum in high school. Fairfax County pays fees for all students who take AP examinations, eliminating a barrier for many low-income black students.