On Foreign Language AP Tests, the Racial Scoring Gap Is Small

Earlier this month JBHE reported on African American participation in the Advanced Placement program and the overall racial gap in AP test scores. (See earlier JBHE post.) We reported that African Americans took 6.4 percent of all AP exams in 2017 and that there average score was lower than the average score for Whites by the equivalent of a full letter grade.

For all AP tests combined in 2017, the average score for Blacks was 2.03, compared to the average White score of 3.02. But Black students do better in relationship to Whites on some AP tests. According to the latest data from The College Board, in 2017, the average score for Blacks on the Chinese language test was 2.28 compared to an average score for Whites of 2.60. In French, the average Black score was 2.97 compared to an average White score of 3.32. In German, the average Black score was 3.01 only 0.32 points below the average score for Whites. In Spanish, the racial gap was slightly higher but still well below the overall difference between Blacks and Whites.

Why do Black students do well relative to Whites on foreign language tests. There may be large number of Black AP test takers who come from families that immigrated from Haiti and speak French. Or there may be large number of Black AP test takers with roots in Latin America where Spanish is spoken.

It may be that in foreign language studies, students of all races tend to enter their studies with little or no head start and with little or no knowledge of the subject. In short, Black and White students start on a level playing field. This is often not the case in other subjects, where in many cases White students have had an advantage.

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