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COVID and AP Scores

Every year, The College Board releases summaries of the prior year's AP program.  While I've visualized these before (here and here), I've been unwilling to update the visualizations or do longitudinal analysis, for a couple of reasons:  First, the data are in multiple tables in multiple spreadsheets, and they are so heavily formatted for printing that scraping the data out of them is quite a burden.  Second, of course, is that the scores don't change a lot from one year to the next.

That is, until 2020, when COVID completely turned the world of higher education upside down.  I was interested in seeing how much scores changed from prior years.  As you can see, the changes are interesting, if not completely surprising.

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In the past I've been critical of the College Board, and I thought they should have cancelled the tests in 2020, notwithstanding the loss of opportunity it would have meant for thousands of students. And the test results seem to suggest the product in 2020 was not up to snuff.  And, to no one's surprise, the students we thought would be most affected by the pandemic were, in fact, apparently most affected by the pandemic.

A couple of notes about the data: The breakouts of public and private school students are estimates, based on subtracting the public school data from the overall data (the assumption being all schools are either public or private, but not accounting, of course, for home-schooled students, who are most likely in the latter category.)  I've also grouped a few subject exams together (Spanish Literature with Spanish Literature and Culture, and others where there was an apparent name change that may have included some content.)  I used the ethnicity labels College Board supplied, and I kept the awkward ALL CAPS labels on the exams, because well, if it's good enough for them, it's good enough for me.

And finally, let's remember a lot of things come with race/ethnicity, and school types that are not measured in this data: Income, parental attainment, opportunity, and student investment.  Don't jump to easy conclusions about what you see here. (And send a note to College Board and ask them to provide this data in more granular and detailed formats, so we can show that, too.)

These views are all very straightforward, and don't require a lot of explanation.  The last view, however, does break scores into two chunks: A weighted average of 2017--2019, and 2020, so you can see the comparisons of before and after (during COVID).

As always, let me know what you see here.


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