Indiana University SPEA Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy University of Pennsylvania AIR American University

Poster Paper: AP Is in: The Impact of Standardizing Postsecondary Acceptance of Advanced Placement Credit in Indiana

Saturday, November 14, 2015
Riverfront South/Central (Hyatt Regency Miami)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Katharine Meyer, University of Virginia
In 2010, the state of Indiana passed public law 91 (PL 91), guaranteeing postsecondary credit at Indiana public two- and four-year institutions for students earning a score or 3 or higher on the College Board’s Advanced Placement (AP) exams. In this paper, I examine the impact of this law on students’ high school AP exam participation and college application and enrollment trends and the impact on Indiana public institutions’ admission policies.

AP courses provide students opportunities to gain valuable content knowledge and college-level study and time management skills, as well the option to accelerate their college studies by earning credit to bypass introductory level requirements and possibly graduate earlier. However, since credit policies vary widely across institutions, students are often unable to accurately measure the future benefits of AP participation. By standardizing credit acceptance policies within the state, Indiana provided certainty to students on the benefits of AP program engagement. The hypothesis is that AP exam taking would increase with ambiguous results on performance, and that students in Indiana would apply more to in-state schools to take advantage of the guaranteed credit.

This study employs a differences in differences strategy using national public use data from the College Board and state departments of education to isolate the impact of the law on Indiana compared to trends in AP engagement across the nation. The paper uses various methods of identifying an appropriate control group to Indiana. This includes Abadie’s synthetic control approach, which uses an optimal combination of similar states to Indiana to create a synthetic Indiana counterfactual. The paper also runs models with all other states as the comparison (excluding states which were implementing similar policies) and with all other states with similar SAT taking rates (under the theory that since the College Board administers both the SAT and AP that prior relationships with the SAT may influence AP engagement).

Preliminary analyses using a general comparison to other states indicate a significant positive effect on the number of students taking exams and number of exams taken (since students can take multiple exams), but fade out of the initial jump in numbers over time. There is also a positive impact on the exam pass rate, which increases over time. Using school-level data from Indiana and Wisconsin, we find a significant increase (about 17.7) in exams taken at each school in Indiana following the policy implementation.

In this paper, I will also report on where students submit their AP scores each year (in-state versus out-of-state and relative school quality) and how many students from each state submit exams to colleges each year. The paper will also use IPEDs data to examine whether schools appeared to change policies in admission by examining application and admission trends at Indiana public institutions and incoming class characteristics.