ERN DC Testifies On the Access to Advanced Placement Exams Amendment Act of 2022


September 27, 2022

The Committee of the Whole Public Hearing on: B24-0665 – Access to Advanced Placement Exams Amendment Act of 2022

Jessica Giles
State Director
Education Reform Now DC

Good morning, Chairman Mendelson and members and staff of the Committee of the Whole. My name is Jessica Giles. I am a ward seven resident and State Director of Education Reform Now DC (“ERN DC”). ERN DC is a non-profit organization that fights for a just and equitable public education system for all students in the District of Columbia. 

I will be testifying today on Bill 24-0665 – “Access to Advanced Placement Exams Amendment Act of 2022,” and my colleague Kyle Myers will be testifying on Bill 24-232, “Student and Minor Access to Records and Transcripts (SMART) Act of 2021.” Overall, we support the intent of Bill 24-0665, which is to provide homeschooled students with a public school location to take the AP exam. However, my testimony will focus on ways to increase transparency in AP data and improve AP exam passage rate.

Why are AP courses necessary?

AP courses offer many benefits to students. Regardless of the score students receive on the AP exam, completing an AP course and exam confers many benefits to students:

  • The opportunity to take college-level coursework in high school help sharpen skills needed to transition from high school to college. 
  • Students who take AP courses and exams have better college outcomes than their peers. AP courses helps students attract colleges and universities. 
  • Students who complete an AP exam, typically with at least a score of three, can earn college credit, which can save students time and money in the future. 

Therefore, it is incumbent upon the District to continue to improve transparency in AP data, strengthen AP passage rate, the access and quality of AP courses because it is an important college readiness tool.


(1.) Not all DCPS and public charter high schools offer AP courses. There are 42 public high schools but only 36 public high schools in DC offered AP courses in 2019 and 2020 according to the College Board data. The DC School Report card reveals a much higher number of schools not offering AP courses.

(2) It is difficult to determine which AP courses are taught at schools. This information isn’t found on the DCPS data set. It’s not on the DC School Report Card. And it is may not be found on the individual school’s website. This makes it difficult for students and families to make the choice to take AP courses, and for the District to determine where there are gaps in subject area offerings. 

(3.) Check how DC schools determine eligibility for AP courses. It is my understanding that the District does not automatically enroll students into AP courses once they’ve demonstrated proficiency in a subject. The District should strongly consider implementing this policy. 

Automatic enrollment is a strong equity strategy that is proven to increase the number of students of color taking advanced coursework because it removes requirements, such as the need for a teacher recommendation or additional testing that often act as barriers to advanced learning. How it works: students who are in ninth grade or higher are automatically enrolled into an advanced course in a subject related to one in which the student demonstrated proficiency on the prior year’s statewide assessment or on another measure that demonstrates the student’s ability to succeed in the advanced course. Parents would be able to decide to remove their children from automatically enrolled classes and exempt their children from any automatic enrollment. Colorado, Nevada, North Carolina, Washington, and Illinois have made great strides on this issue. 


In 2018, DC’s average AP scores was 2.78, which places us 36th in the nation.

(1.) In 2018, DC was number 1 in the nation for average AP score for white students and number 46 in the nation for average AP score for Black students. This exposes very troubling opportunity gaps in our education system. 

(2) DC does not have a policy mandating that students are awarded credit for minimum scores on AP courses. Any student who scores 3 or higher on the AP exam should receive credit for that course. According to the College Board, a “3” is the equivalent of a C or C+ in a college-level course. Only two higher education institutions in the District accept 3’s on the AP exam. All colleges and universities in the District of Columbia should change their policy to give students credit for making at least a three on the exam. The District can do something about this:

  1. 36 states have already passed laws like this, including Virginia. By not implementing this policy, the District incentivizes our students to go out of state to receive credit. 
  2. Most students who attend school in the District of Columbia enroll in UDC or Trinity Washington University. While UDC may accept threes, there is no clear information about their policy on their website, and Trinity University accepts mostly 4’s and 5’s on the exam. Both UDC and Trinity should share data with the DC Council on how many students take AP exams each year and how many students receive credit.
  3. Many Hispanic, Black, and Asian students in the District of Columbia do not score 4 or 5 on the exam.

The DC Council must urge DC higher education institutions to accept threes on the AP exam to open up opportunities for our students to receive credit in these courses.


About half of the educators teaching AP courses in DCPS did not major in the subject they were teaching. I strongly urge the Committee of the Whole to follow up on this issue to understand how DCPS is tackling this issue.

In closing, I encourage the Committee of the Whole to strengthen college and career readiness in the District of Columbia by increasing transparency in AP score data and improving the AP credit transfer rate. Thank you for allowing me to testify today. I am available to answer any questions you may have.

From:  James Murphy, Senior Policy Analyst, Education Reform Now

To: DC Council’s Committee of the Whole

Date: September 27, 2022

Subject: Advanced Placement (AP) in DC

1. 36 public high schools in DC offered AP courses 2019 and 2020, according to College Board data

2. How many AP tests were taken by Black students in DC schools (public and private) between 2018 and 2020 and what percent passed, from College Board data.

3. AP Performance and Participation in DC Public Schools, taken from DC School Report Card Data.  It is important to note that the participation rate is a share of all students, while the performance rate is a share of all test-takers who got a 3 or higher on the AP or a 4 or higher on the IB.  I calculate the share of the total population with a passing score by multiplying the participation share by the performance share.

ChartIn case comparative (pre-COVID) data is useful.

GroupShare of Population That Took an AP or IB exam 2018Share of Population That Took an AP or IB exam 2021Share of Test Takers that Had a Passing Score 2018Share of Test Takers that Had a Passing Score 2021Share of Population that Had a Passing Score 2018Share of Population that had a passing score 2021
At Risk47%42%22%21%10%9%
Students with Disabilities23%17%15%18%3%3%
Asian American91%82%55%65%50%53%

4. Average AP scores by state and median income (2018) and by race/ethnicity. DC is not doing well. These charts include public and private high school students; they can’t be disaggregated. I would ignore the income data. It’s not disaggregated by race/ethnicity.

ALL Students

Asian American

Black:  DC’s Black students’ average AP score ranks 46th in the nation.


White:  DC’s White students ranked  #1 in the nation for AP scores

Here’s another way to look at average AP Scores.

5. A study of DCPS participation and pass rate showed growth in participation and pass rate, but the pass rate is very, very low.

One problem:  about half the people teaching AP courses did not major in the subject they’re teaching.