Mixed Results on the Worth of AP and IB Classes

Nearly 100 percent of high schools are offering AP and IB classes or a college dual enrollment program, but recent data from the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics shows that only half of the students are earning college credits for these courses. NCES is using data from an ED survey of students that entered high school in 2009 and graduated in 2013.

When it comes to the number of courses offered by high schools, the amount of AP and IB classes was correlated with their parents’ highest level of education. For parents with high school credentials, students were mostly like to go schools typically offered 11 AP and IB courses. When parents who had received a undergraduate degree, the number of AP and IB classes rose to 12.6 percent and parents with graduate degrees typically had students that offered 14 of those classes.

With more schools offering these courses, there is some debate over why more students are not getting college credit. Denise Pope, a senior lecturer at the Stanford University Graduate School of Education, conducted a peer research review study in 2013 and found a correlation between students taking AP courses and succeeding in college. However, determining the benefits of the correlation remains elusive.

"When you look deeper into the research, it's really hard to establish causation. It could just be that kids who take APs are kids who come from better high schools or high schools that better prepare them for college work, or they have better teachers or they're naturally more motivated. Very few studies use methods where they take these factors into account," she said in an interview published by the Stanford Research Service.

The full data tables from NCES are available for free here.  

About the Author

Sara Friedman is a reporter/producer for Campus Technology, THE Journal and STEAM Universe covering education policy and a wide range of other public-sector IT topics.

Friedman is a graduate of Ithaca College, where she studied journalism, politics and international communications.

Friedman can be contacted at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter @SaraEFriedman.

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