“Big four” lead the way in AP

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Five years ago, just four high-achieving high schools supplied almost half of the 1,958 Chicago Public Schools students who took Advanced Placement exams.

Last year, after a push to expand AP programs system-wide, the “big four” still provided more than a third of the system’s 3,200 test-takers, but the number of students at other schools who took AP tests had grown more rapidly.

Nationwide, 6 percent of all high school students take AP exams. Chicago’s “big four” high schools — Lincoln Park, Whitney Young, Lane Tech and Kenwood– have stayed ahead of that curve, growing the percentage of students taking AP tests from 8.8 percent in 1996 to 11.4 percent in 2000.

Meanwhile, the percentage of students taking AP tests in all other CPS high schools slowly began to catch up, growing from 1.2 percent to 2.5 percent.

Outside of the big four, the surge in AP testing was driven by a few schools that enrolled many more students in AP classes, although it included other schools that just added a few students at a time. Morgan Park, Amundsen, Curie, Hyde Park, Hubbard, Washington and Clemente were among the schools that added the most AP students.

Only Von Steuben showed a significant drop in the number of students taking AP exams, from 152 in 1996 to 76 in 2000.

The big four schools also led the system in the rates at which their students passed AP tests. As a group, pass rates among the big four rose from 60 percent in 1996 to 67 percent in 2000, outpacing the national pass rate of 64 percent. At other CPS schools, pass rates declined slightly, from 25 percent in 1996 to 22 percent in 2000.

CPS test-takers scored highest in AP Spanish Language, with a pass rate of 92 percent and a median score of 4.4 on AP’s five-point scale.

The chart below shows the number and percentage of students taking AP exams in CPS high schools last year and each school’s pass rate. The number of exams administered is generally higher than the number of students taking exams because many students take more than one AP test in a given year.