Bringing Rigor to the Study of Rigor

Are Advanced Placement Courses a Useful Approach to Increasing College Access and Success for Urban and Minority Youths?

Authored by: Melissa Roderick , Ginger Stoker

Handbook of Research on Schools, Schooling, and Human Development

Print publication date:  May  2010
Online publication date:  June  2010

Print ISBN: 9780805859485
eBook ISBN: 9780203874844
Adobe ISBN: 9781135283872


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In his 2006 State of the Union Address, President Bush announced a new initiative to train 70,000 high school teachers to teach Advanced Placement (AP) mathematics and science courses. 1 This initiative reflects the growing consensus that high schools must provide more students with the rigorous coursework they will need to gain access to and be prepared for college. It also reflects the transformation of AP from a program aimed at offering an elite group of students the opportunity to earn advanced standing in college to a program used by students and high schools to increase college preparedness and gain advantage in college admissions. From 1981 to 2004, the number of students taking AP examinations increased from 178,000 to over 1.1 million (The College Board, 2005). More recently, as reflected in former President Bush’s pledge, the AP program is being advanced as a policy strategy for addressing the minority achievement gap (National Governors Association, 2005a). Many states have already adopted policies to support the expansion of AP for low-income students, including providing start-up AP grants to districts, supplementing AP examination fees, and even requiring that every high school offer AP courses (American Diploma Project, 2004; Education Commission of the States, 2000; Klopfenstein, 2004; National Governors Association, 2005b).

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