Pinyin News mentioned the College Board’s Mandarin AP test results from 2007: 81.1 % of those taking the test got a 5, and 88.9% test takers said they “regularly speak or hear the foreign language of the examination at home.”
The real story here is that the weekend Chinese school system must be doing something right. When I was talking to Gaston Caperton in 2005 for my Mandarin article, the College Board fully expected the first couple years of the test to be dominated by native speakers. Chinese parents had been pushing for an AP test in the language for a while, so their kids could get academic credit for all the work they’d put in (and so the parents could vindicate themselves in their kids’ eyes, no doubt). In the early years of the AP curriculum, there just wasn’t going to be enough support early enough in the public schools to give non-heritage speakers the background they’d need to do well on the exam.
The challenge will be for schools that have touted their new Mandarin AP classes to duplicate these test scores.