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The Funnel To Passing AP Exams

Simply having more access to Advanced Placement (AP) courses in high school is no guarantee that students will take and succeed in these courses. Using data from the 2015-16 Civil Rights Data Collection on AP course availability, participation, and performance across the country, the interactive below provides average estimates for a theoretical 1,000 high school students (grades 9-12) in the United States progressing through each stage of the AP funnel. The interactive shows how many of these students could be expected to take an AP course, take an AP test, and pass an AP test.

Data are presented overall and broken out by number of AP courses available at a given school. The latter illustrates how availability influences, but does not completely determine, AP course enrollment and testing. The interactive features allow for comparison both nationally and between states, as well as comparisons between students from different racial and ethnic backgrounds.

For more information on the analysis, see the Center for American Progress report “Closing Advanced Coursework Equity Gaps for All Students.”

Schools are divided into four groups based on number of AP courses they offer, to show that even with increased access there are still significant disparities in enrollment and success. The authors found that the most even division of groups was 0 to 3 AP courses, 4 to 10, 11 to 17, and 18 to 37, which best approximate 25 percent of the national student population per group.

Roby Chatterji is a senior policy analyst for K-12 Education at the Center for American Progress. Neil Campbell was the director of innovation for K-12 Education at the Center. Abby Quirk is a policy analyst for K-12 Education at the Center.