Advanced Placement (AP) Exams for High School Students

March 2000 / Abell Reports / Education

They are important to the success of the students — but Baltimore City’s AP offerings put it behind the counties.

Since 1992, Baltimore City public high schools have offered the fewest Advanced Placement (AP) level courses and exams of any school system in the Baltimore region.

The AP Examination, operated by the College Board, is a national examination given by the Educational Testing Service, which also administers the Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT). The College Board offers 32 college-level courses in 19 different disciplines, including English literature, history, biology, foreign language, mathematics, physics, and chemistry. Courses are generally taken during the junior and senior years of high school. At the conclusion of the course work, students may elect to take the AP examination, although students may take the exam without having taken the course. Any student who successfully completes the exam, scoring three out of a possible five points, may qualify for college credit and/or placement out of introductory courses.

The existence of AP courses and exams in a school system is one demonstration of the level of that system’s commitment to high academic standards and college attendance. Conversely, the absence of a wide range of AP courses in a school system does not speak well for it. Students who seek out and succeed at AP courses and exams are viewed by college admissions’ counselors as motivated and likely to excel.

Since 1992, the high schools in the Baltimore City Public School System (BCPSS) have offered the fewest number of AP courses and exams — and there have been a fewer number of its high schools offering the courses and exams — of any system in the region. In the 1998-99 school year, only four of the five citywide high schools offered AP courses and exams. By comparison, there were AP courses offered and tests taken at every one of the 23 high schools in Baltimore County in that same year. In Washington, DC, 13 of 17 public high schools, or 76%, offered AP courses and tests.

There are 19 high schools in Baltimore City, including four alternative high schools and five citywide academic magnet high schools: Baltimore City College, Baltimore Polytechnic Institute, Western High School, Baltimore School for the Arts, and Paul Laurence Dunbar High School. Admission to the five schools is based on test scores, grades, and attendance. Each of those schools purports to offer a rigorous,  college-preparatory education. Only four of them, however, offer Advanced Placement courses.