Racial Differences in the Impact of Participating in Advanced Placement Programs on Educational and Labor Market Outcomes

Article excerpt

The Advanced Placement (AP) program, sponsored by The College Board, is a multi-disciplinary program designed to provide students with the opportunity to learn exciting subjects in innovative ways and gain college credit, while in high school, for demonstrated mastery in particular fields of study. During the past fifty years, there has been an increasing number of students and schools that have participated in the AP program. For instance, in 1956, there were only 104 schools, 1,229 students, and 130 colleges and universities participating in the AP program. In 2006, approximately 16,000 schools, 1,339,282 students, and 3,638 colleges and universities participated in the AP program (The College Board, 2006a). With the increasing number of participants and educational institutions, the AP program has also grown and expanded to incorporate increasingly more diverse learning opportunities. In fact, today, the AP program has more than thirty different courses covering various subjects, including but not limited to computer science, Spanish literature, and environmental science.

In light of the continued success and development of the AP program (Johnson, 2004; Paige, 2004), the benefits of participating in AP programs on educational outcomes have been examined and reported (Santoli, 2002). For example, Morgan and Ramist (1998), in their study involving 21 colleges, found that students who had placed out of an introductory course because of their AP exam scores earned higher average course grades on the second, third, fourth, and in some cases, fifth course in the college curriculum than did students who took the introductory course. In a follow-up study, based on data from approximately 11 colleges and universities, Morgan and Maneckshana (2000) discovered that students who scored higher on the AP Calculus AB exam were more likely to graduate in four years or less and earn higher overall grade point averages than did students who scored lower on the AP Calculus AB exam. In another comprehensive study exploring educational outcomes, involving nearly 4,000 students spanning approximately 30 years, Bleske-Rechek, Lubinski, and Bendow (2004) found that students who participated in AP programs were more likely than students who did not participate in AP programs to convey higher levels of satisfaction with their high school experiences and earn a master's degree or higher. Overall, Bleske-Rechek et al.'s findings indicated that AP programs positively impact students' perceptions of high school as well as their long-term educational outcomes. Summarizing the primary findings in their study, Bleske-Rechek et al. noted: "[T]hrough self-selection or something intrinsic to the AP program itself, AP involvement is a positive predictor of educational success and satisfaction for intellectually talented youth" (p. 219).

Research and data have also indicated that racial and ethnic minority students in K-12 school settings were disproportionately represented in AP programs and scored lower on AP exams than their White peers (The College Board, 2004; 2006b; Venkateswaran, 2004). For example, Klopfenstein (2004) found that African American and Hispanic students in Texas, who were more likely to come from low-income families, were not as likely to participate in AP programs when compared to White students. Moreover, Solorzano and Ornelas (2002, 2004) conducted state-level analyses of California high schools and found that African American, Hispanic, and Chicana/Latina students were underrepresented in AP programs. Ndura, Robinson, and Ochs (2003), analyzing data from a school district located in the western part of the United States, also concluded that African American and Hispanic students were underrepresented in AP programs and that the most salient variable impacting this trend was their socioeconomic status. According to data from The College Board (2006b), during 2006, African Americans scored an average of 2 on all AP exams, which were the lowest overall average of any racial group; White students scored an average of 3 during the same time period. …


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