The AP program is the national standard for academic rigor and college readiness, providing high school students with the opportunity to take college-level courses in a high school setting. AP courses provide the level of rigor that best prepares students for post-secondary success. Research demonstrating that AP courses increase students’ college readiness and completion is incontrovertible. The success of the AP program is due, in part, to the academic rigor of Pre-AP and AP courses. Experimental research studies have proven that participation in the AP program is significantly correlated with college readiness.
The 2011 AP Report to the Nation (College Board) cites significant equity and achievement gaps. For example, last year only 15.5% of the Texas public school graduating class earned a 3 or higher on at least one AP exam during high school, and only 30.2% of the class took at least one AP exam before graduation. AP equity and achievement gaps in Texas are at their widest when assessing African-American rates of participation and performance. They comprise 15% of the overall public school student population in Texas; however, they comprise only 9% of the AP examinee population and 4% of AP exam scores of 3, 4, or 5; representing qualified, very qualified and extremely qualified for post- secondary success, respectively. Clearly, these students are not receiving adequate preparation for the rigors of college-level course work.
There is strong evidence that participation in AP strongly correlate with student achievement, college readiness, and college completion. The peer-reviewed research connecting AP participation to positive college outcomes has been conducted by non-profits, institutions of higher education, and the federal government. These organizations include Educational Testing Service, The College Board, the University of Texas and the U.S. Department of Education. Aligning high school standards to college expectations is a critical step toward giving students a solid foundation in the academics needed for success in post-secondary education and ultimately, in the global workforce. AP courses are an excellent avenue by which schools can increase the rigor of their curriculum and better prepare their graduates for college. The results from a recent study from the College Board suggested that taking an AP exam after completing the course better prepares students for the more rigorous demands of college-level work. These results support the efficacy of the AP program and underscore the utility of participation in the AP Program as a way for students to better prepare themselves for higher education (Mattern, Shaw and Xiong 2009). Moreover, students who are adequately prepared for post-secondary education are less likely to require remedial classes in college, a key indicator for college success. Although approximately 45% of all students who enroll in post-secondary education will ultimately earn a bachelor’s degree, only 17 to 39% of students who take remedial courses will successfully earn that degree, depending on the number and type of remedial courses taken. Among students who take no remedial courses, 58% will earn a bachelor’s degree (College Board 2004).
According to the largest-ever study of the effects of AP on college success, University of Texas researchers found that students who take AP courses in high school are more likely to graduate from college within four years and have higher grade point averages in college than similar students who did not take AP courses. Hargrove and Dodd (2007) found that students who successfully participated in one or more AP exams and courses significantly out-performed their non-AP peers. These comparisons were made among peers with similar levels of academic ability and family economic status. Students who took one or more AP courses and exams had higher college GPAs, earned more credit hours and were more likely to graduate in 4 years or less. The findings indicate that even AP students who took the course and scored 2 out of a possible 5 points on an AP exam will still tend to do better in college than a student who did not take AP courses or who skipped the AP exam (Hargrove and Dodd, 2007).
Additionally, data suggests that AP exam scores of 3 or better are strongly predictive of a higher rate of college graduation. A study by Dougherty, Mellor and Jian (2005) assessed college-graduation rate differences between matched AP and non-AP students and found that AP students were significantly more likely to graduate from college than their matched non-AP peers. These results indicated that African-Americans scoring a 3 or higher on the AP exam as opposed to the non-AP student were 21% more likely to graduate from college, Hispanics were 27% more likely, whites were 19% more likely, and low-income students were 32% more likely.
It is without question that AP courses are rigorous, college-level classes that prepare students for their post-secondary education. The AP Program provides high school students with the opportunity to take college-level courses in a high school setting. Effective teachers are critical to helping all students meet rigorous high school course¬work and standards. Excellent teachers have high-level skills and knowledge in the subjects they teach and are trained in helping low-performing students succeed. Through a comprehensive plan to increase the content knowledge and pedagogical skills of teachers, schools will increase the level of rigor in their curriculum and better prepare students for post-secondary curriculum.
2012 AP Report to the Nation The 9th Annual AP Report to the Nation uses a combination of state, national and AP Program data to provide each U.S. state with the context it can use to celebrate its successes, understand its unique challenges, and set meaningful, data-driven goals to prepare more students for success in college.
"A recent College Board study showed that students who scored 3 or higher on four popular AP Exams earned higher first-year GPAs, were more likely to continue on to a second year of college, and were more likely to attend selective institutions, on average, than students with comparable SAT® scores and high school GPAs who did not take AP. Even students who scored a 1 or 2 on an AP Exam showed higher retention rates into their second year of college than non-AP students, and they were more likely to attend selective institutions."
Krista D. Mattern, Emily J. Shaw, and Xinhui Xiong, "The Relationship Between AP Exam Performance and College Outcomes" (2009), The College Board.