For Immediate Release
February 11, 2014

Illinois closes equity gap for Latino students on AP exams

Percentage of Latino test takers exceeds percentage of Latino graduates overall as record number of Illinois students takes exams and excel; Leyden High School District 212 recognized for expanding access to AP courses and improving performance

SPRINGFIELD — Illinois is emerging as a national leader in closing the equity gap for Latino as well as low-income Advanced Placement test takers, providing additional access to college for these traditionally underserved populations, according to the 10th Annual AP Report to the Nation. The percent of Latino Class of 2013 graduates who took the rigorous Advanced Placement exams during high school surpassed the total percent of Latino graduates statewide, continuing a decade-long trend of continued Latino participation in these accelerated college-prep courses.

“Illinois has been a leader in closing the participation and success gap for Latino test takers on the prestigious AP exams, which is a huge step forward in achieving excellence and improving college access for our most vulnerable students,” said Christopher A. Koch State Superintendent of Education. “Illinois is committed to preparing all students for success in college and careers through equal yet challenging opportunities. The latest AP exam results are further proof that our efforts are on the right track.”

Advanced Placement exams measure a student’s content mastery of college-level studies in specific academic disciplines. The national report’s data show that Latino students comprised 18.4 percent of Illinois’ Class of 2013 but they represented 19.8 percent of graduates who took at least one AP exam during high school. Furthermore, the number of Latino graduates taking AP courses has more than quadrupled in the last decade with 8,661 in 2013 compared to 1,994 in 2003. The percent of Latino students scoring a 3 or higher, the recommended score for earning college credit, is also showing gains with 16.1 percent of those Latino test takers earning a 3 or higher in 2013, compared to 14.6 percent in 2012 and 8.1 percent in 2003.

Illinois and Florida are the only two states that have a Latino graduate population greater than 10 percent and were able to remove the equity gap in AP participation for these students.

As its student population grows more diverse and economically challenged, Illinois continues to see record numbers of graduates taking these rigorous tests, with the percentage of graduates earning successful scores today almost doubling the total number of graduates who took the exam 10 years ago.

As part of its Fiscal Year 2015 budget recommendation, the Illinois State Board of Education is seeking an additional $2 million to provide assistance to low-income students taking AP exams. More than half of Illinois’ 2 million public school students now qualify for free and reduced-price lunch at school.

Low-income students comprised 29.3 percent of graduates who took AP exams in 2013 compared to only 19 percent in 2008 and 12.1 percent in 2003. Meanwhile, the number of low-income graduates scoring a 3 or higher nearly tripled in the last five years from 1,969 or 9.7 percent in 2008 to 5,758 or 19.8 percent in 2013. Research shows that minority and low-income students who earn at least a 3 on an AP exam are more likely than their peers to earn higher degrees in college and a college degree within five years of enrolling.

“Illinois legislators and educators are obviously committed to broadening AP access to more low-income and minority students,” said Trevor Packer, the College Board’s senior vice president who leads the Advanced Placement Program. “We congratulate them on their successes and encourage them as they move forward to ensure that all students have the same opportunity to reach their full potential.”

AP exams measure a student’s content mastery of college-level studies in specific academic disciplines. A total of 43,835 graduates took at least one AP exam during high school in 2013, more than double the 20,968 students who took the test in 2003.

Illinois ranks 13th in the nation for the percentage of 2013 graduates – 21.5 percent – who scored at least a 3 on an AP exam during their high school career. The national average is 20.1 percent. Additionally, the percentage of Illinois graduates who reached that benchmark grew by 8.5 percentage points from 13 percent in 2003, putting Illinois among only 17 states that exceeded the national average of graduates scoring a 3 or higher in 2013. The College Board and the American Council on Education (ACE) recommend that colleges and universities award credit for AP scores of 3 and higher on any AP exam.

“I’m pleased to see the continued growth of academic achievement by all students and the expanding access to these rigorous, college-level courses,” said State Board Chairman Gery Chico. “The AP Program offers students the skills they need for college success, and we are pleased to see dramatic growth in the number of students participating and succeeding in this program.”

Leyden High School District 212 named AP District of the Year

This year’s report recognized an Illinois school district as a national leader in increasing access to AP courses for all students while also achieving improved performance. Leyden High School District 212 is the College Board Advanced Placement ® Equity and Excellence District of the Year for small school districts, defined as fewer than 8,000 students.

Leyden was one of 30 Illinois school districts and a total of 477 districts overall in the United States and Canada that earned a spot on the Annual AP District Honor Roll. Three AP Districts of the Year were selected from this list for each category of district population size – small, medium and large – based on an analysis of three academic years of AP data.

From 2010 to 2013, Leyden:

“At Leyden, we pride ourselves on setting high standards and giving all students the resources and supports they need to be successful, including equal access to AP curriculum,” said Leyden Superintendent Nick Polyak. “Teachers and counselors work with individual students to give them an accurate understanding of each AP course’s requirements and encourage them to consider these challenging courses whenever possible to help expose and prepare them for the rigors of college.”

Leyden promotes academic achievement through several successful initiatives, including a literacy plan started in 2009 and the launch of A Caring Community Ensuring Student Success (ACCESS) program in 2005, which involves more than 50 staff members and 200 upperclassmen mentors who help all high school freshmen make a smooth transition to high school and continued support. Each Leyden student also receives a wireless Chromebook laptop to cultivate enhanced connection, communication and collaboration. Additionally, Leyden recognizes students who meet criteria in eight different areas, including taking at least one AP course during high school, with an Excellence Award.

Leyden and the two other winning districts will be honored during the AP Annual Conference in Philadelphia in July.

Other highlights

Other highlights of the 10th annual AP Report to the Nation include:


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