Are there disparities in the proportion of students who progress through the Advanced Placement coursework and exams?
Advanced Placement (AP) is among the most ubiquitous advanced coursework in high schools in the United States today. The coursework and its corresponding exam provides an opportunity for students to study advanced topics and earn college credit while still in high school. Past research has shown a strong association between AP course-taking and exam performance with college enrollment, performance, persistence, and completion. However, there are disparities in the types of students who move through the AP pipeline—from AP course access in their high schools all the way through AP exam performance.
In this report, Michael D. Bloem, Thomas Goldring, Monica Mogollon Plazas, and Jonathan Smith document the AP pipeline in a metro-Atlanta school district, with a focus on disparities by student sex, race and ethnicity, and family income. They explore what proportion of students in each demographic group have access to AP courses in their high school, take the AP courses, take the AP exams, and perform well enough on the exams to earn college credit.
The report shows the divergent rates of scoring a three or higher on different AP exams, especially by race and ethnicity, eligibility for free or reduced-price meals, and English Learner status. These disparities stem from all stages in the AP pipeline: differing course availability, course-taking rates, exam-taking rates, and exam performance. While some of the students who fall out of the pipeline are not predicted to perform well on the exams, a meaningful proportion of students have the potential to score a three or higher on some exams and earn college credit.
To read more, please download the report and its appendix below.