AP programs have evolved in an unusual way in some high schools with large numbers of impoverished students. Educators at these schools have concluded that although few of their students are likely to achieve passing scores on the three-hour college-level AP exams, many would benefit from taking AP courses and tests that acquaint them with college standards and help them build academic muscle. Once students are involved in AP, they say, teachers can help them catch up to the AP standard through improved instruction and more challenging programs in lower grades.
This approach to AP is so different from the one followed in most high schools that NEWSWEEK has decided to provide a separate list of those schools where fewer than 10 percent of AP tests result in passing scores. Each school is ranked as usual by its Challenge Index rating, the ratio of AP tests to graduating seniors. The list gives the name of the school and the percentage of students who qualify for federal lunch subsidies, a rough measure of the level of poverty. In parentheses after the school's name is the passing rate on all AP exams taken at the school.