This white paper considers advanced coursework—specifically Advanced Placement® (AP) or International Baccalaureate® (IB) Diploma Programme course-taking (participation) and/or exam scores—as measures of college and career preparedness. It begins by presenting a brief overview of the two programs, their respective histories, and their current applications in other states’ accountability systems. Next, the programs are evaluated against the framework being used for all five categories of potential college and career preparedness measures.
From the summary:
Both AP and IB appear to be technically strong measures of college and career preparedness. Strong evidence suggests performance in AP and/ or IB positively relates to postsecondary success; however, participation in AP and/or IB seems to have little predictive value. Furthermore, whether the relationship between AP/IB and postsecondary success is causal remains an unanswered question. AP allows for partially fair comparisons because not all students who take AP courses have an equal chance of passing the exam—minority students pass at significantly lower rates than white students. Not enough research exists to determine if IB provides fair comparisons across schools. Finally, both AP and IB appear to be stable measures; however, the sheer number of AP courses, differences in both offerings by school and student enrollment in various courses, and exam passing rates have the potential to influence stability over time. Tables 2, 3, and 4 summarize the evaluative criteria ratings.
Incorporating AP and/or IB as measures of preparedness serves multiple purposes for a variety of stakeholders. Students gain significant educational currency in the forms of college credit and résume building. AP and IB data reported on schools would be understandable to a variety of stakeholders, including the general public that might be interested in how schools are preparing students for college. The stakeholder relevance in this case stems from AP and IB exam scores’ ability to provide evidence about content, skills, and competencies rather than educational processes.
Most high school students in California have access to either AP or IB. Though IB is available in only 6% of California public high schools, AP coverage provides nearly ubiquitous access. As a result, these programs have utility for incorporation into an accountability system. Students and schools incur smaller costs with AP than IB. However, fee reductions are available for students who cannot afford to take AP or IB exams. Finally, both AP and IB represent progress toward predominantly the college-going pathway.
Some states include a combination of AP and/or IB participation and performance within accountability systems. Some states use only performance, and others only report AP and/or IB data to the public, but do not use the data to calculate school grades. The approach that policymakers choose has implications for the type of student that schools will encourage to take AP and/or IB courses and exams. A measure based solely on performance produces the incentive to encourage only high-achieving students to take AP and/or IB. Including both performance and participation has the potential to minimize incentives that lead schools to privilege high-achieving students.
Authors: David Conley, Michael Thier, Paul Beach, Sarah Collins Lench, Kristine Chadwick