Panel Paper: Linking Advanced Placement Course Completions of High School Seniors to College Attendance Plans

Saturday, November 10, 2018
8219 - Lobby Level (Marriott Wardman Park)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Nikolay Anguelov, University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth and Kristen Leo, Worcester Public Schools

Advanced Placement (AP) classes are designed and instructed on par with university rigor standards to prepare students for college expectations. Colleges also count them toward requirements to obtain four-year degrees and in that way, AP courses offer an economic benefit to students as they translate to tuition savings. The problem is that access to AP courses is not equal for all students. Advanced Placement continues to represent significant budget line items in a secondary schools’ budgets and schools face difficulties offering AP courses due to human resource limitations and/or politics of prioritizing general curricula. However, increasingly university admission requirements include AP course specifics both in number and in type, making AP courses important to high school students evaluation college options.

In this project, we examine how the enrollment in and completion of AP courses impacts students’ plans after high school graduation. Using data from Worcester County, Massachusetts, we analyze a college readiness metric called “post-graduation indicator” for 7 high schools. The indicator is a ranked scale coded from exit surveys in which students indicate if they plan to a) work/join the military/other, b) attend 2-year public college, c) attend 2-year private college, d) attend 4-year public college, and e) attend 4-year private college. Employed as a dependent variable we run ordered probit regressions on graduating cohorts of high school seniors from 2011 to 2017. This dataset of over 20,000 observations allows us to note yearly trends under the understanding that each graduating class would have different characteristics. Controlling for ethnic and economic specifics, we focus on two explanatory variables: 1) total number of AP courses the student has taken and 2) an AP access indicator score ranging from 1 to 5 which is derived from student AP exit exams.

Preliminary results show the number of AP courses as a significant predictor of increases in the post-graduation indicator score for each student, suggesting that each additional AP course raised the possibility that a student would aim to enroll in 4-year colleges. Coefficients range from .38 to .69, suggesting that the probability of a student considering a more prestigious institution increases by an average of 50% with each additional AP course. In all years the number of AP courses is significant, while the AP access indicator is not. In addition, in certain years economic and ethnic controls show significance when in others they do not. The only consistent and statistically significant variable in all 7 regressions was the number of AP courses a student has taken, showing the importance of access to AP courses as a motivator for high school students to aim for a college future.

Full Paper: