TUSD AP Data Shows Continuing Inequities

In November, the Tucson Unified School District announced that it was one of 425 school districts in the U.S. and Canada honored by the College Board with placement on the 6th Annual AP® District Honor Roll for increasing access to AP course work. To be included on the Honor Roll, the District had to increase the number of students participating in AP while also increasing or maintaining the number of students earning AP Exam scores of 3 or higher since 2013.

The announcement was presented by the District’s public relations team as evidence that the District was “committed to expanding the availability of AP courses among prepared and motivated students of all backgrounds.”

Superintendent H.T. Sanchez used the accomplishment to diminish the students’ performance on the AZMerit test while touting the increase in AP accessibility. He stated, “We are very excited to announce that our students are doing amazing work. A lot of people are fixated on the AZ Merit and state accountability system. I’ve always felt that if you want a true measure of high school excellence, you need to take a look at how many kids are taking AP classes. You need to take a look at how many kids are scoring 3s, 4s and 5s in AP classes. We are very thrilled that our students aren’t just in the classes but they are succeeding in the classes and our principals are making it a priority.”

The District only released the overall numbers and refused initially to release individual school performance. Individual school performance is important in order to gauge if in fact, the District is making strides in increasing the inclusion of all students.

As the District noted in its glowing press release, “National data from 2015 shows that among black/African American, Hispanic, and Native American students with a high degree of readiness for AP, only about half of students are participating. The first step to delivering the opportunity of AP to students is providing access by ensuring courses are available, that gatekeeping stops, and that the doors are equitably opened so these students can participate.”

Individual school performance date was finally released on Wednesday, and it indicates that the District’s commitment to expanding the availability of AP courses is lip service.

While the district increased the number of minority students enrolled in AP classes by 154, the number of tests taken at primarily minority schools actually dropped.

Inclusion on the 6th Annual AP District Honor Roll is based on the examination of three years of AP data, from 2013 to 2015, looking across 34 AP Exams, including world language and culture. The criteria used to earn a spot on the Honor Roll are low. Districts must:

• Increase participation/access to AP by at least 4 percent in large districts, at least 6 percent in medium districts, and at least 11 percent in small districts;
• Increase or maintain the percentage of exams taken by black/African American, Hispanic/Latino, and American Indian/Alaska Native students; and
• Improve or maintain performance levels when comparing the 2015 percentage of students scoring a 3 or higher to the 2013 percentage, unless the district has already attained a performance level at which more than 70 percent of its AP students are scoring a 3 or higher.

The District took weeks to deliver the data. While we requested a breakdown by school and subject, the District only provided the school data.

School School Year: 2015 School Year: 2014 School Year: 2013 Gain/Loss
Pueblo 135 72 107 +28
THMS 307 424 331 -24
Rincon 196 267 269 -73
UHS 2192 1871 1793 +399
Palo Verde 95 53 104 -9
Sahuaro 242 242 245 -3
Sabino 348 259 363 -15
Santa Rita 49 57 71 -22
Catalina 20 48 52 -32
Cholla 0 0 0 NC
Project More 0 15 17 -17
Total 3584 3313 3374 +210