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Going ‘All In’ to Deliver Advanced Placement Opportunities to Native Students

Choosing to take AP classes is one of the best things students can do to become college and career ready—and Native student's don't take them enough.

It’s easy to overlook what may be the most critical time of year in our schools’—the short period in which students register for classes for the coming academic year. That period is now. And the choices students make will influence both their futures and our nation’s.

Choosing to take Advanced Placement classes is one of the best things students can do to become college and career ready. AP challenges students to work at their highest potential, and it can earn them college credit that will save them time and money as they continue on their path to success.

And the research is clear. Students who score a 3 or higher on at least one AP exam tend to earn higher GPAs in college, take more—not fewer—classes in their discipline, and are more likely to earn their college degree on time.

In the past 10 years, expansion efforts have nearly doubled the number of students who have been given access to the opportunities AP offers.

But we still have a long way to go, especially for American Indian students.

Only 12 percent of American Indian 11th- and 12th-graders in our public schools took an AP Exam in May 2014, compared to nearly 22 percent of 11th- and 12th-graders nationwide. We’re still leaving too much talent on the table by not challenging high-achieving students of color to reach their fullest potential. Last year alone, nearly 300,000 students with the potential to succeed in certain AP courses as determined by their scores on the PSAT/NMSQT didn’t take an AP course for which they were qualified.

That’s almost four out of 10 students with AP potential that did not take an AP course for which they showed likelihood of success. For American Indian students, that number is five out of 10.

Choosing AP can be a daunting decision, especially for teens who don’t know someone who’s done it before and don’t see many students who look like them in AP classes. We can help more students make the smart choice—one that can save them thousands of dollars in college expenses and, most importantly, set them on the path toward success.

The College Board’s All In campaign is a multifaceted, coordinated effort to ensure that 100 percent of American Indian, Latino, and African American students with AP potential enroll in at least one matched AP class.

We are joined in these efforts by the Council of the Great City Schools, along with the National Council of La Raza, the National Urban League, and 61 school districts nationwide. While this broad support is essential, research has shown that the most powerful factor that turns a potential AP student into a registered AP student is the spirited encouragement and enthusiastic support of a teacher, counselor or school administrator.

In other words, adults who work in schools have enormous influence and can, by reaching out to students of color with AP potential and encouraging them to take AP classes, quite literally change the education trajectory of these students.

We need to challenge all students to own their future. 

The class of 2016 has the opportunity: 491,508 students in the class of 2016 who took the PSAT/NMSQT in October 2013 showed potential to succeed in AP courses. 381,792 of them attend public schools.

In the coming weeks, as students plan their coursework for next year, I urge educators, counselors, administrators, and families who stand at the doorsteps of opportunity to open those doors and help every student step confidently into the future.

To learn more about all that AP has to offer, visit

Pamela Agoyo (Cochiti, Kewa, and Ohkay Owingeh Pueblos) is the Director of American Indian Student Services and Special Assistant to the President for American Indian Affairs at the University of New Mexico. She is also a member of the College Board’s Board of Trustees, and serves as Trustee Liaison of the College Board Native American Student Advocacy Institute (NASAI). As part of her service to the New Mexico tribal community, Ms. Agoyo is the President of the New Mexico Statuary Hall Foundation. Most recently, she served as President of the National Indian Education Association (NIEA).