Q: Why are schools using AP to drive school reform?

A: For several reasons:

  1. AP Exams provide incentives for students and teachers to attain higher standards.
  2. Raising standards in the senior year requires raising standards across grade levels.
  3. Pre-AP® and AP professional development help create a vertically aligned curriculum.

It’s important to remember, however, that any effective school reform or redesign program anchored in AP must be multipronged, giving as much attention to raising the rigor and quality of teaching in the middle school years as it does to AP classes in high school (The College Board, FAQ, 2006).

Q: Do typically underrepresented and low-income students benefit from AP? What about the number of underrepresented and low-income students who are doing well on the AP Exams?

A: Schools that make Advanced Placement accessible to all students usually experience the benefit of higher standards throughout the entire school. Over the past decade, as AP has expanded to many more schools with low-income and traditionally underrepresented minority students, AP participation and success have increased dramatically among such students.

Over the past 10 years, the number of minority students participating in AP has risen at a remarkable rate, with the number of low-income students and Latino students almost quadrupling, the number of African American students more than tripling, and the number of Native American students more than doubling. During the same 10 years, the number of successful AP Exam scores (3 or higher) has increased by 192 percent among African American students, 233 percent among Latino students, and 128 percent among Native American students (The College Board, FAQ, 2006).

Q: How can we introduce more low-income students to AP?

A: A lot of attention has focused on this issue since the publication of Rising Above the Gathering Storm, the report that warned that the United States is on a losing path in the national global marketplace, partly due to our weak science and math education.

It’s clear that we need to train many more AP teachers, particularly in math and science. In his State of the Union address on January 31, 2006, President Bush called for training 70,000 math and science teachers to teach AP and IB courses in order for our nation to maintain its edge globally. IB also provides rigorous academics.

In addition, we have to introduce this kind of rigorous academic program into more schools in more diverse communities. The road to AP success for most students starts early. Students need solid grounding in pre-algebra and algebra, as well as the physical sciences, starting in grades 6, 7, and 8. They also need to develop strong reading, writing, and critical thinking skills in the elementary and middle grade levels. We strongly support new and existing initiatives that give students access to enriching, rigorous course work in grades K–10 so that they are ready for the challenges of AP by the time they reach grades 11 and 12 (The College Board, FAQ, 2006).

Q: Does participation in AP help students succeed once they get to college?

A: Two new research studies from the University of California and the National Center for Educational Accountability each show that AP courses that result in students earning AP Exam grades of 3 or higher are impacting college performance and completion. These studies move beyond the simplistic correlation studies of the past, which have always shown strong correlations between taking AP courses and college persistence, and actually now demonstrate that among academically comparable students, an AP experience that culminates in an exam grade of 3 or higher has a significant impact on a student’s likelihood of college success.

Simply said, a high-quality AP course in high school does an excellent job of fortifying students for a successful transition into the battery of college courses they’ll experience in their first semester at college (The College Board, FAQ, 2006).

Q: Does AP math and science participation affect a student’s chance of graduating from college on time?

A: Absolutely. Strong correlations exist between taking AP math and science (and all other AP subjects) and college completion. Sixty-one percent of students who’ve taken two AP courses in high school will graduate from college in four years or less.

Forty-five percent of students who’ve taken one AP course will graduate from college in four years or less. Only 29 percent of students who haven’t taken an AP course will graduate in four years or less.6

But we can only make claims that AP is impacting college completion rates by comparing students with similar academic and socioeconomic profiles. When we only compare students who are academically similar, it is clear that AP courses of sufficient quality to produce exam grades of 3 or higher have the power to impact a student’s ability to persist in college and obtain a degree.

For this reason, it is essential that the new AP courses offered nationwide are coupled with adequate preparation of students in the years prior to AP. A successful AP expansion initiative will focus as much attention on student and teacher preparation in grades 6–11 as it does on student and teacher support in the twelfth-grade AP course (The College Board, FAQ, 2006).