MOST HIGH SCHOOLS aren’t in the enviable position of having too many students enrolled in too many AP courses. Sixty-one of the more than 360 public high schools in Massachusetts now participate in the privately run National Math and Science Initiative, which works to expand enrollment in AP math, science, and English classes. The program, which includes teacher training and Saturday student review sessions, received $400,000 in state money last year (and is vying for $2 million this year), but is primarily funded by private donors such as Exxon Mobil.
The initiative is one way to confront a persistent problem: uneven AP participation within high schools and among them, cutting across racial, ethnic, and income lines, says Mitchell Chester, the Massachusetts commissioner of elementary and secondary education. “I’m not wedded to AP as the only measure [of success], but it’s an important barometer,” he says. “It has tremendous cachet with the higher-ed community. One way or the other, it is a credible barometer of being prepared for college-level work.”