Wednesday, May 9, 2018


Since we are immersed in Advanced Placement testing in the Boise District, we thought it might be interesting to do a little research on the demographics of test-takers in the District. Following are some of our findings.

Grade Level Distribution of Test-takers is Changing

A couple of years ago we wrote that more sophomores are taking Advanced Placement exams. That pattern is continuing.

As you can see, many more sophomores are taking exams now than have in the past.  The number of sophomores participating in AP testing has increased by over 250%.

As a share of total exams, here's the distribution by grade level in 2012:

Now note how much it changes by 2017:

The percentage of sophomores taking exams almost doubled in six years. Why? Well, mostly because all four comprehensive high schools have opened up additional sections of the two courses most often taken by 10th graders - AP Human Geography (280 exams in 2017) and AP World History (276) - because the two courses are so popular.

Note too that the percentage of exams taken by 9th graders has also grown - this is primarily due to sections of AP Human Geography being offered at North and Hillside Junior High.

The most popular AP exams are those which are the highest level of a required course. For example, AP English Language and Composition (607 test-takers in 2017) satisfies the junior English requirement, and AP Literature and Composition (366) does the same for the senior English requirement. AP U.S. History (315) satisfies a Social Studies requirement, and AP Government (276) satisfies another. 


More Boise District females (54% of participants) took AP exams overall in 2017 than did males (46%). Females also took 52% of the AP exams given in 2017. This pattern is similar to that of the national AP program.

Among the 16 exams with more than 100 participants, more males participated than females in only 5 exams - Calculus AB, Calculus BC, Chemistry, Physics 1, and Computer Science Principles. The widest participation margins were in Computer Science Principles, for which 70% of the participants were male and Psychology, for which 66% of the participants were female.

65% of exams taken by male students were scored at the level of "3" or above, a "passing" score. 61% of the exams taken by females received a "passing" score.


Over 98% of 2017 exams were taken by students who identified as one of the three ethnic groups in the chart below.  78% of exams were taken by white students (includes middle eastern students), while white students represent 77% of the high school population. 11.6% of exams were taken by Asian/Pacific Islander students (5.5% of the population), and 8.4% were taken by Hispanic/Latino students (10.5% pf the population). Less than 1% of exams were taken by Black students, though they represent about 4% of the population, and a significant number are refugee students.

Boise's passing percentages compared with the nation are interesting. Our Asian/Pacific Islander students' passing percentage is about 5% lower than the national percentage, while the percentage for our white students is about the same as the nation. However, while there's a passing percentage gap for Hispanic/Latino students compared with the Total, their overall passing percentage if 11% higher than in the nation as a whole.