Alaska Advanced Placement Statistics

The following is an assignment I wrote for my UAS Alaska Studies class. I thought I'd share it here, though, just in case others might find it interesting.


Advanced Placement classes represent a relatively small slice of high school coursework in the United States, but that slice has grown significantly over the last decade: From the class of 2003 to the class of 2013, the number of AP exam takers nearly doubled, with over a million students from the class of ’13 taking at least one AP test.

Alaska is below the national average when it comes to student success with AP exams—a headline that made several Alaska media outlets back in February. Only 14.6% of Alaska high school graduates scored a 3 or higher (a successful score) on at least one AP exam, lower than the national average of 20.1%. Alaska ranks near the middle of the pack among other states with this statistic, however—dead even with Rhode Island and slightly higher than Arizona.

There’s a large gap in the rate of AP exam participation between Native and non-Native students in Alaska: While Natives made up 18.8% of Alaska’s graduating class in 2013, they made up only 5.7% of AP exam takers. Additionally, these students scored 3 or higher at a rate below the state average, since Natives made up only 4.6% of Alaska’s successful exam takers. In the only other state with a comparable Native student population, Oklahoma, Native students were also underrepresented and less successful on average. However, OK had significantly higher rates of Native participation and success: Natives made up 18.3% of the graduating class, 9.4% of exam takers, and 8.9% of successful exam takers.

While Alaska has a lower percentage of free or reduced-price lunch students than most states, (38.4% vs. a national average of 48.1%), the AP “equity gap” is even larger for these students than it is with Native students: low-income students make up only 8.4% of Alaska exam takers, and only 7% of the successful ones. In Iowa, which has a slightly higher percentage of low-income students, they make up 14.1 and 10.4%, respectively.

My conclusions from these statistics are as follows: AP courses represent a small but growing portion of Alaska high school students’ courses. (22.6% of Alaska’s class of 2013 took an AP exam.) There are significant deficits between Native and non-Native students in rates of AP exam-taking and success, and I would guess this gap stems from both disparities between urban and rural schools and disparities within in them. However, an even larger gap exists for low-income students in the state. While it may be simplistic, the obvious statement to make is that AP courses in Alaska overwhelmingly serve well-off white urban students.

I attempted to find statistics for AP scores within different Alaska school districts. But couldn’t find any easily. I have been discussing AP courses with my mentors and coworkers at Ketchikan High School, however, and hope to see some solutions to the current disparities.


AP Report to the Nation 2014
AP Report 2014 — Alaska