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A Quantitative Analysis of the Association between Advanced Placement Access and Equity at High Schools in a Mid-Atlantic State Open Access

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Abstract of DissertationA Quantitative Analysis of the Association between Advanced Placement Access and Equity at High Schools in a Mid-Atlantic State Advanced Placement curricula have become significant components of instruction for high school students in the United States, consuming resources and shaping education in ways that affect high school students both within and outside the AP classroom. Educational research has documented significant gaps in educational equity for some demographic groups and substantial advantages for others. Peer reviewed literature exploring the relationship between the level of educational challenge offered within a school and educational equity within the same school is quite limited. In the absence of the appropriate research, planners and policy makers cannot properly evaluate whether educational strategies emphasizing rigorous instruction, such as is found in AP curricula, would help to address the racial gap in equity, contribute to that gap, or have no effect on educational equity. The purpose of this quantitative study was to investigate the relationship between the size of a school’s program to provide college-level instruction and the racial equity of that program. Quantitative methods were used to answer this question in a single Mid-Atlantic state, using the relative size of each high school’s Advanced Placement program, per graduating senior, as an indicator of the size of the school’s program to provide college-level instruction to its students. Racial equity was measured by comparing the relative numbers of AP exams per Black or Hispanic graduating senior with the corresponding numbers for all other seniors in the school. Additional qualitative data analysis investigated trends in student choice of AP exams. Quantitative statistical tests found no statistically significant relationship between the size of a high school’s AP program and the rate of Black or Hispanic participation in that program, or between changes in the size of a high school’s AP program and changes in the rate of Black or Hispanic participation in that program. This neutral result implies that educational leaders can deal with AP planning and with educational gaps among subgroups of students as separate issues rather than as interrelated topics. Qualitative explorations identified several trends, including an apparent general decrease in the proportion of AP exams taken in English and Mathematics as the size of a school’s AP program increases and an apparent changes in the proportions of certain exams, including an increase in the proportion of Science exams taken in Environmental Science, an increase in the proportion of Mathematics exams taken in Statistics, and a decrease in the proportion of Science exams taken in Biology for schools with larger AP programs.

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