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Choosing the Gap: Understanding the Advanced Placement Enrollment Choices of Black Students Open Access

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Advanced Placement (AP) courses benefit high school students in a number of ways including improved academic performance and increased graduation rates from colleges and universities. Unfortunately, Black students in the United States do not participate in AP courses at the same rate as their fellow students. This has measurable consequences for Black students as they leave high school and seek post-secondary opportunities. The purpose of this basic interpretive qualitative inquiry is to understand factors that inform the choices made by Black students at schools offering AP courses. While many Black students experience an “opportunity gap” with respect to AP courses because of geographic location and/or school assignment, this does not fully explain the lack of Black participation in the AP program. Where opportunity does exist, Black students continue to experience underrepresentation. In order to more fully understand the reasons behind Black enrollment patterns in schools where AP courses are offered, semi-structured interviews of students were conducted in order to more fully understand their perspective on choices, supports, and organizational structures (both internal and external) related to course selection. Using a framework of Operational Citizenship, this research study identified specific factors influencing those choices made by Black students.

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