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Maryland students need better access to AP exams

LETTER TO THE EDITOR Kieshia Thorpe, Bladensburg The writer is a teacher in the Prince George's County Public School system.

Every Maryland student deserves the opportunity to be successful in college.

While we’ve made some progress in recent years, it’s clear that much work needs to be done to expand high school students’ access to Advanced Placement exams and eliminate barriers on their path to higher education. I am an Advanced Placement teacher at International High School Langley Park, and I have been teaching AP English courses for many years, especially to English language learners.

I believe in the value of the AP program, which better prepared students for college and career and wish to express my appreciation to Gov. Larry Hogan (R) for allocating funding from the state set aside COVID Emergency Relief funds for low-income students wishing to take AP exams in 2022 and 2023.

This will especially be beneficial to African American and Hispanic students who come from low income households to be able to access AP courses that helps them to be more competitive for college admissions and scholarship opportunities. Research has shown that this student population that has a history of being underserved and attend schools that are underfunded and under-resourced are less likely to take enroll in Advance Placement courses and take the exams.

Throughout the years, I have witnessed my English language learners taking AP courses and exams who realize such opportunities are a key gateway to a successful college career. They are critical in preparing high school students for the rigors of a postsecondary education, challenging them to think critically and allowing them to earn college credits along the way. I also appreciate the state department of education working with the governor to ensure appropriate and smooth implementation.

Students who come from low-income households or communities of color are underrepresented due to the cost of the exam and other factors being barriers to their access. The College Board, which administers the AP program provides a subsidy for students on free and reduced lunch, but an out-of-pocket expense of $53 remains for the student. Some school districts have provided this support in the past, but this action on the part of the governor guarantees statewide support for all low-income students wishing to participate in AP exams and removes the question of whether a school district has the funding to pay.

This has real-world impact, too. In a survey sent out to students, 58% indicated that having the exam paid for would encourage them to take AP courses. That percentage jumps to 65% for Black students and 66% for Hispanic or Latino students. And, students who complete these courses are more likely to enroll in college, and ultimately more likely to succeed in completing two- or four-year degrees.

Therefore, I’m incredibly appreciative of this support and am excited for the hundreds of thousands of low-income students in Maryland who will benefit from this decision by the governor.

For reference, in 2020, only 28% or 399,815 of Maryland’s students were AP exam takers, so I look forward to seeing how this new funding may impact participation among some of our most vulnerable students.

Gov. Hogan, thank you for your leadership and commitment to providing better access to college for Maryland’s low-income students. This decision is good for Maryland and foundational to students’ success post-high school.

This AP teacher appreciates you.

Kieshia Thorpe, Bladensburg

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