Enrollment in AP classes and tests drop in 2020

Hadley Carr

The number of students enrolled in Advanced Placement (AP) classes—especially students of color—has sharply declined in 2020 from an all-time high in 2019. 

Until the past two years, AP enrollment and the number of AP exams taken have steadily increased since 2012. The pandemic and distanced learning likely caused the decrease.

“COVID-19 definitely affected the number of students taking exams in the spring of 2020. We don’t yet have the total [AP scores] for the spring of 2021, but we expect those numbers to also be lower than our high in 2019,” assistant principal Steven Miller said. 

In 2020, Miller began conducting a thorough review of AP enrollment and score data to explore the lack of diversity in AP classes. While data from the most recent school year is not yet complete, increases in enrollment for students of color were fairly consistent, with 39 percent enrolled in one or more AP classes. The percentage of students dropped to 35 percent last school year. 

Miller is aiming for a small increase in AP enrollment this year, followed by a large increase in the 2022-23 school year. 

Previous increases in data were in part due to initiatives by former Principal Kimberly Martin. Upon Martin’s arrival to Wilson in 2015, she set an emphasis on alleviating the racial disparities in Honors and AP classes beginning with implementing “Honors for All.” 

In hopes to prevent tracking, Martin made select classes only Honors classes, with no option for on-level classes. Before her departure, Martin hired Julia Mosconi and William Rost to conduct a study to determine the effectiveness of Honors for All.

Mosconi and Rost determined the Honors for All initiative was successful since the class of 2022 enrolled in more honors courses than in previous years. Their conclusion was further supported by the relative increase in the number of students taking AP courses in 2019-20. 

Following the success of Honors for All, Martin advocated for an “AP For All” initiative, requiring all juniors to take AP U.S. History and AP English Language and Composition. 

The initiative was ultimately rejected by Superintendent of Secondary Schools, Dr. Drewana Bey, who was concerned that the classes would alter graduation requirements. Bey noted that ESL students, special education students, and students with disabilities may not have an equal opportunity to complete their graduation requirements. 

Martin worked with students in the Wilson group Minorities in AP (MAP) to develop the proposal. Senior Shaina Adams is a student leader of MAP and was disappointed with the outcome. “Our overall goal is to ensure success and a healthy learning environment for all students, regardless of race,” she said. 

MAP has shifted its focus to its new mentoring program, which hopes to increase student involvement in AP courses by providing students with academic support.

In conjunction with MAP, Miller hopes to offer enrichment for AP classes with extension classes to allow students to dive deeper into course content.

“The [extension] course is designed to increase student preparedness, confidence, and success in [AP Lang],” English teacher Jenna Postler said. The course will have an emphasis on small group and individual feedback, writing analysis, and high-level writing skills.

“I hope this class will increase student enrollment in AP courses by providing a strong foundation for students and allowing students who otherwise may have felt not prepared or not confident about their academic readiness to thrive,” Postler said. •