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Public and Private Schools and AP Exams, 2020

 A few weeks ago, I saw this Twitter thread by James Murphy, and it reminded me of something.  If you don't want to read the thread, it has to do with the seemingly enormous advantage private school students have in the admissions process at the highly rejective colleges (hat tip to Akil Bello for that term.)

What it reminded me of was the data that College Board publishes annually on AP results. It's good of them to do so, but when data is published in massive spreadsheets, the conspiracy theorist in me starts to wonder if there isn't an attempt to claim transparency while attempting obfuscate the patterns.  Even if you manage to download the data, the tables are formatted for printing, not analysis, and it's sliced and diced in ways that make it impossible to do a lot of the detailed analysis you'd might like.

But what we have is what we got.  And what I chose to look at today were the tabs that broke out performance on AP exams by test and ethnicity and school type (that is, public or private).  Sort of.  College Board provides a tab for "all students" and a tab for "public school students" so if you want to figure out the private school data, it takes a bit of time (and my assumption is that there are only two types of schools, and if you're not in a public, you are in a private, which includes home-schooled students, I suspect).  Time I just happened to have this week in the late evenings.

There are four views here: The first shows mean AP scores for test takers by ethnicity, broken out by public school (blue) and private school (purple) students.  On the right is the number of exams taken.  If you want to look at a specific score (for instance, US History) you can use the control at the top to filter to just those results.

The second shows the public/private percentage break downs for each exam. What's up with Latin?  Surprising/not surprising.  If  you want to look at just a cluster of exams (math and computer science, for instance), or a range of scores, you can use the filters to get those views.  Go ahead and interact; you won't break anything.

The averages from the first view are interesting, of course.  But distributions are more compelling, I think, so I visualized those on the third view. The come broken out by ethnicity, and you can filter to AP score, subject, or school type.  Watch the patterns change as you click.

Finally, the fourth view shows 100% rows by score, broken out by ethnicity.  For instance, of all the students who got a score of 3, 52.38% were White, and 19.06% were Hispanic/Latino.  If you want to look at just one subject, or either school type, the filters are your friends.  The row at the very bottom shows all the results for all of the scores selected.

As always, I'm eager to hear what you see or notice here. Drop me a note if something jumps out at you.


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