Illinois Leads Nation in Latino Student Participation on AP Exams

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Traditionally underserved populations continue to make strides as more Latino and low-income students test to gain college credit

SPRINGFIELD, IL — Illinois continues to lead the nation in eliminating the equity gap for Latino students taking Advanced Placement tests, providing more minority high school students access to these challenging, college-level courses with each graduating class. The latest AP data shows that the percentage of Latino Class of 2014 graduates who took AP exams during high school exceeded the total percentage of Latino graduates statewide for the third consecutive year.

“Latino and other minority students traditionally are underrepresented in these rigorous courses as well as among the portion of AP test takers who post successful scores,” said State Superintendent of Education Tony Smith, Ph.D. “Illinois continues to put more minority and low-income students in AP classrooms, where they gain the knowledge, skills and resources to thrive and prepare for postsecondary life.”

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 made up 18.1 percent of Illinois’ Class of 2014, but they represented 20.4 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 9,287 in 2014 compared to 2,160 in 2004. The percent of Latino students scoring a 3 or higher — the recommended score for earning college credit — also shows significant growth, with 17.3 percent of those Latino test takers earning a 3 or higher in 2014, compared to 8.2 percent in 2004.

With an increasingly diverse student population and more than half of students considered to live in low-income households, Illinois still reports record numbers of graduates taking AP exams, with more than 45,000 graduates taking at least one AP exam and slightly more than 30,000 of those students scoring a 3 or higher in the Class of 2014.

Just less than 30 percent of graduates who took AP exams in 2014 are low income, compared to only 21.8 percent in 2009 and 12.7 percent in 2004. Meanwhile, the number of low-income graduates scoring a 3 or higher roughly doubled in the last four years from 3,133 in 2010 to 6,081 in 2014. 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.

AP exams measure a student’s content mastery of college-level studies in specific academic disciplines. A total of 45,415 graduates or 35.4 percent took at least one AP exam during high school in 2014, more than double the 21,710 graduates or 17.4 percent who took the test in 2004.

Illinois ranks 13th in the nation for the percentage of 2014 graduates – 23.5 percent – who scored at least a 3 on an AP exam during their high school career. The national average is 21.6 percent. Additionally, the percentage of Illinois graduates who reached that benchmark grew by 10.9 percentage points from 12.6 percent in 2004, putting Illinois among only 16 states that exceeded the national average of graduates scoring a 3 or higher in 2013.

The College Board and the American Council on Education recommend that colleges and universities award credit for AP scores of 3 and higher on any AP exam. Additionally, research shows that students who earn a score of 3 or higher typically achieve higher grade point averages in college, are more likely to graduate college on time in four years, and have higher graduation rates.

Additionally, 26 Illinois school districts have been named to the AP Honor Roll, which recognizes districts that increase access to AP coursework while also increasing the percentage of students earning scores of 3 or higher on AP exams. These districts are:

Archdiocese of Chicago

Aurora West School District 129

Barrington Community Unit School District 220*

Batavia Unit School District 101*

Beecher Community Unit School District 200-U

Carterville Community Unit School District 5

Central Community Unit School District 301*

Champaign Community Unit School District 4

Chicago Public Schools*

Community High School District 155*

Crete-Monee Community School District 201-U*

Dunlap Community Unit School District 323*

Galena Unit School District 120

Grant Community High School District 124*

Huntley Consolidated School District 158

LaSalle Peru Township High School District 120

Leyden Community High School District 212*

Macomb Community Unit School District 185

McLean County Unit District Number 5*

Morton Community Unit School District 709

Niles Township High School District 219*

Ottawa Township High School District 140

Township High School District 211*

Tri-Valley Community School District 3

Williamsville Community Unit School District 15

Woodstock Community Unit School District 200

*District has achieved the honor for multiple years.

Other highlights for the Class of 2014 include:

·         Black/African-American students made up 11.1 percent of graduates who took at least one AP exam for the second consecutive year in 2014, higher than the national average of 9.4 percent. Ten years ago, this student group made up only 6.2 percent of test takers. In the last decade, the number of Black/African-American students who scored a 3 or higher more than tripled from 409 in 2004 to 1,377 in 2014.

·         The 10 most popular AP exams taken by the class of 2014 are English language and composition, U.S. history, psychology, English literature and composition, calculus AB, U.S. government and politics, biology, statistics, Spanish language and culture, and chemistry.

To see AP participation by district, visit:

To see AP success by district, visit:

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