Skip to main content

Changes in AP Scores, 2022 to 2024

Used to be, with a little work, you could download very detailed data on AP results from the College Board website: For every state, and for every course, you could see performance by ethnicity.  And, if you wanted to dig really deep, you could break out details by private and public schools, and by grade level.  I used to publish the data every couple of years.

Those days are gone.  The transparency The College Board touts as a value seems to have its limits, and I understand this to some extent: Racists loved to twist the data using single-factor analysis, and that's not good for a company who is trying to make business inroads with under-represented communities as they cloak their pursuit of revenue as an altruistic push toward access.

They still publish data, but as I wrote about in my last post, it's far less detailed; what's more, what is easily accessible is fairly sterile, and what's more detailed seems to be structured in a way that suggests the company doesn't want you digging down into it.

But based on a series of tweets by Marco Learning, based on research by its founder John Moscatiello, I set about scraping the data off the website, as on this page for 2024, this page for 2023, and this page for 2022. After first making a mistake because of the way the data are formatted and laid out, I've done manual checks and double-checks on this, especially on the exams where the results look way out of whack with what you would expect.

Marco Learning's take was that this was intentional on the part of the College Board, and that it would continue on other exams in the future.

They also pointed out that this would save students a lot of money in college tuition, and of course, that's true; if the tests were correctly designed, and students did better, that would be good news.  But the question is really: Should they be getting credit for these results?  Do the changes in performance mean that students are more qualified, or that the tests are easier?  And in some subjects, does giving credit for some courses actually set students up for failure in subsequent classes?

This is problematic because College Board has spent a lot of money lobbying state legislatures to pass laws requiring public universities grant credit for AP exams (usually a 3 or above).  The assumption on college campuses is that--despite some mistrust of the College Board and their methods--they have good psychometricians who ensure test design meets rigorous standards that ensure a grade of 4, for instance, means the same thing today as it did five years ago.

But the incentive to enforce that rigor is gone, since states have effectively endorsed the outcomes of these exams as valid and worthy.  College Board can now shift to growing market penetration, as they do when they encourage school districts to push AP, and encourage even students who might not be prepared to take AP classes.

And, of course, as always seems to be the case, there is some measure of hypocrisy in the current statements of College Board compared to things they've said in the past. Remember the book "Measuring Success" which was written in large part by College Board staff members and fans, and railed against grade inflation, using data that suggested otherwise? (College Board disavows any formal connection to the book, but their Communications Staff Members were thanked in the foreword.)

Paul Tough, in his book "The Years that Matter Most" pointed out that College Board's own conclusions contradict the evidence they published:




The data are below, in three views: And before I allow you to leap to conclusions, there are a lot of things that might explain why scores in some exams are swinging so wildly in a year, but College Board's refusal to publish this data in an easily, machine-readable format makes that insight really hard to get at (and they won't do it themselves, as they never respond publicly to criticism like this.)

At a bare minimum, when College Board exam results show wild swings like this (especially if they are intentional) I think they owe it to actively notify every university that accepts scores, and every state legislature they've lobbied to approve the tests, of the changes.

View one (using the tabs across the top) shows thermometer charts: Choose any class using the drop down box.  You'll find big changes in some of the classes, and some that seem perfectly tuned over time.

View two shows the same data in a format some might find easier.

View three shows all exams that have three years of data (thus, excluding African-American Studies and Pre-Calc) for a wider view of the program.


Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Freshman Migration, 1986 to 2020

(Note: I discovered that in IPEDS, Penn State Main Campus now reports with "The Pennsylvania State University" as one system.  So when you'd look at things over time, Penn State would have data until 2018, and then The Penn....etc would show up in 2020.  I found out Penn State main campus still reports its own data on the website, so I went there, and edited the IPEDS data by hand.  So if you noticed that error, it should be corrected now, but I'm not sure what I'll do in years going forward.) Freshman migration to and from the states is always a favorite visualization of mine, both because I find it a compelling and interesting topic, and because I had a few breakthroughs with calculated variables the first time I tried to do it. If you're a loyal reader, you know what this shows: The number of freshman and their movement between the states.  And if you're a loyal viewer and you use this for your work in your business, please consider supporting the costs

The Highly Rejective Colleges

If you're not following Akil Bello on Twitter, you should be.  His timeline is filled with great insights about standardized testing, and he takes great effort to point out racism (both subtle and not-so-subtle) in higher education, all while throwing in references to the Knicks and his daughter Enid, making the experience interesting, compelling, and sometimes, fun. Recently, he created the term " highly rejective colleges " as a more apt description for what are otherwise called "highly selective colleges."  As I've said before, a college that admits 15% of applicants really has a rejections office, not an admissions office.  The term appears to have taken off on Twitter, and I hope it will stick. So I took a look at the highly rejectives (really, that's all I'm going to call them from now on) and found some interesting patterns in the data. Take a look:  The 1,132 four-year, private colleges and universities with admissions data in IPEDS are incl

The College Finder

Note: A few people have commented on slow loading with the visualization.  If you have troubles, click here to be taken right to the visualization .  It should open in a new tab and you can follow along from there.    This is always a popular post with high school counselors, IECs, parents, and students who are looking for general information on degrees awarded, or a very specific combination of academic programs, location, and other institutional characteristics. It uses IPEDS data I downloaded as soon as I can when it became available (and before a looming government shutdown), and shows all 1,700 majors recognized by the federal government in the IPEDS system, using CIP codes, and the number of degrees awarded by college in any selected area. For instance, you might have a question about which college awards the most degrees in French Language and Literature: A few clicks, and you find it's the University of Arizona.  If you want a colder climate, choose the Great Lakes region,