Advanced Placement Research Findings

Valerie Strauss is the editor of the Answer Sheet, the section/blog about education from the Washington Post. I subscribe to the weekly summary of articles and often find something interesting. This week she summarized the research on College Board’s Advanced Placement (AP) program (Seven things research reveals – and doesn’t reveal – about Advanced Placement) This is an honors level high school curriculum similar to the International Baccalaureate’s Diploma Programme. In fact, in the comments, the IB is referred to several times.

Strauss concludes that AP is challenged by expanding to urban schools serving lower socio-economic students in the USA. This makes sense because as with the IB, it takes a lot of resources like training, support services, and an environment (class size, family support) to run a successful rigorous curriculum. Poor schools lack many of these vital services.

Some of her later conclusions about AP from the research did not sit well with me. She only found “moderate association” with passing an AP exam and university success. This may be to the difficulty of educational research to separate causes in a complex system. I would also like to know why some elite boarding schools are dropping their AP courses.

Interestingly, as more schools across the United States stretch their course schedules to incorporate more AP offerings, a small group of elite boarding schools have recently dropped their AP courses. This development presents a new wrinkle in the push for equitable access to rigorous learning opportunities. If elite schools change the definition of elite courses, old marks of distinction may give way to new ones.

I did a research review of IB studies last summer. There is a lack of studies targeting IB and student achievement.


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