By Aswad Walker
There is evidence that shows Black high school students experience very real barriers to accessing advanced placement courses—high school classes that allow students to receive college credits and/or better college preparation (theoretically) than standard high school courses.
The Defender put out the call to receive actual stories from you—THE PEOPLE—about your experiences and parents, teachers and students regarding this issue. Here is what you had to say:
“Upon entering high school in rural GA, my daughter’s counselor was discouraging her from signing up for AP courses. Her exact words, ‘AP courses require a lot of time and are difficult. Are you prepared to pass the class?’ I had a smirk with my response: ‘Ma’am, she’s coming into high school with high school credits. We are sure she can handle the course load.’ She found that, in the AP courses, very few Black students were enrolled, and she only had one Black teacher. We also learned that if you didn’t score at level 3 for the AP course test despite her high grade, she wouldn’t receive college credit for the course. After a couple of AP courses, we decided to no longer take the AP tests. She has taken a total of 3 AP courses. We focused our sights on dual enrollment as it provided a greater benefit to her college future.” (Khadijah Kaufman)
“I think it would be important to inform parents about the benefits of dual credit programs vs. AP courses.” (Shar-day Campbell)
“Black access to AP courses can be a subjective question based on students’ attendance to public or private schools and the geographic location. I think question or info that maybe helpful to share is the pros/cons AP classes present. APs are great GPA boosters, but most universities and colleges have raised their standards so high, they will not accept them because it takes away money out of said universities’ pockets. The excuse they will give is that have found the AP course load doesn’t meet college level standards and is overused. So, they request an essential perfect score on their AP exams to have them count as transfer credit. However, another benefit to AP courses is SAT/ACT prep. If your child is in AP math classes, for example, that child will have a substantive knowledge advantage over their classmate that follows normal courses. Another pro of AP classes is the student’s college major and access to internships and top 25 schools. If the student is looking at a top 25 program and wants to major in pre-med or engineering, for example, the AP course could serve as a resume booster to a college application. But, with that being said, the student who took no AP courses but completing internships in their major interest and maintain a competitive GPA will also favor highly in college admissions. As a take away — I would add if your child is interested in AP courses, look at the prerequisites, the teachers leading those courses, and recommendation process. It’s best to know the rules ahead of time to proactively plan.” (Rose Weaver Lindsey)
“At Lamar HS, where our daughters attended and graduated, AP courses are called IB (International Baccalaureate). And they were a lot of work. AP/IB courses go much deeper into the subject matter. Students learn the same material, they just do a much deeper dive into it. It’s a lot of work. It’s not for everyone. For many Black students, I believe many choose not to take them not because they can’t handle the work, but because so many of their friends aren’t in those courses. Others feel they can get an easy A in the regular classes with not much effort. Our son tried that when signing up for his high school freshman classes. But we weren’t going for that. Also, it requires more of the parents. But no, not really. If a child is in AP courses, they can probably handle it on their own. Because it takes a certain type of student to even get into AP courses. Overall, our daughters’ experiences in AP/IB classes were positive. They certainly prepared them for college. And AP/IB courses are more in depth, so it helps with student comprehension and understanding of the subject matter much more.” (Adrianne Walker)