Despite Equal Preparedness, Black Students Less Likely Than White Peers to Enroll in AP Math Classes

A new study from researchers at New York University has discovered Black students in public New York city high schools are less likely than their White peers to enroll in AP mathematics courses, even when they have the same level of academic-preparedness.

For their study, the authors developed a novel statistical measurement of academic-preparedness, which they define as the probability of a student to pass at least one AP math course. The research team analyzed data of over 40,000 ninth grade high school students from the New York City Department of Education in 2011 and 2012 and estimated the probability that each individual student would pass at least one AP level math exam in grades 11 or 12.

The study results found a disparity between AP enrollment rates and levels of academic preparedness between Black and White students. Black students who were of an equal academic footing to their White peers were less likely to enroll in an AP math course by the end of high school.

The authors believe their findings could offer new insight into why racial disparities exist in AP course enrollment compared to other studies on the topic, which have historically considered factors such as previous course grades and standardized test scores.

“Common measured indicators of academic background, such as previous course grades and standardized exam scores, might be only partially related to students’ academic preparedness for AP courses, and so, by holding these factors constant, traditional estimates are not necessarily comparing the enrollment rates of students with similar levels of academic preparedness for AP,” said lead author João M. Souto-Maior, a postdoctoral fellow with the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development at NYU.

Study co-author and NYU associate professor of applied statistics, Ravi Shroff, added, “By estimating racial disparities in a way that mitigates limitations of previous work, we hope to inform policies, like targeted outreach to students and parents, that can mitigate persistent racial gaps in AP course-taking.”

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