New CCRS Center Technical Assistance Response: Advanced Placement for College Readiness

The College and Career Readiness and Success (CCRS) Center is a technical assistance hub that promotes CCRS knowledge development and increases collaboration through interactive learning activities for Regional Comprehensive Centers, state education agencies, and other CCRS stakeholders. This blog post is the first in a series of posts that will draw on technical assistance responses we have prepared for individual states to answer specific questions and address specific needs related to their CCRS work.

The CCRS Center has compiled a list of state practices around Advanced Placement (AP) for a state looking to promote college and career readiness and degree completion. This technical assistance request informs state strategies to provide accelerated learning options, secondary interventions programs, college and career readiness advising, and other postsecondary supports based on current state examples. The CCRS Center conducted a literature search to determine best practices, policies and initiatives with respect to successfully implemented AP courses.

The following summary provides the key takeaways from the Center’s state and research scan of AP practices and highlights the qualities of effective AP policies, programs, and initiatives.

Best Practices
The CCRS Center identified three significant attributes of successful AP courses: teacher preparation, student preparation, and student motivation. Research reveals a positive correlation between teacher preparedness and student achievement. Professional development, workshops, vertical teams, mentors, and support from administration have proven to be successful means to prepare AP teachers.  Research also suggests the importance of student readiness before AP entry. Positive teacher-student interactions, hands-on learning, objective and achievable goals, vertical alignment of curricula, student accountability and other student supports positively contribute to student preparation for AP classes. Lastly, research indicates that increased student motivation leads to a growth in AP exam taking, AP enrollment, and higher AP scores. Financial incentives, positive teacher-student interactions, grade-weighting policies, and recognition for accomplishments are strategies shown to increase motivation.   

Policies
The U.S. Department of Education’s Doing What Works (DWW) initiative organizes AP policies into four overarching categories: (1) preparing students academically, (2) assessing and intervening, (3) fostering college aspirations, and (4) assisting with college entry. These policies focus on state strategies to recruit, identify, engage and support AP students. Though the first three categories of AP policies as organized by DWW have been addressed by only a few states, 10 states have implemented policies that assist with college entry. Among these college-entry initiatives are state-subsidized test fees, grants to schools for offering AP courses, test fee reimbursements to districts, allotment of gifted and talented student funding to AP and IB programs, and parent notification of accelerated learning options.

Programs and Initiatives
AP programs are also organized by DWW into the aforementioned categories: (1) preparing students academically, (2) assessing and intervening, (3) fostering college aspirations, and (4) assisting with college entry. The majority of current state initiatives pertain to preparing students academically – with a variety of programs in 36 states offering extended learning opportunities, vertical teaching teams, professional development opportunities, transitional programs, as well as pre-AP and online courses. There are no state initiatives that the CCRS Center identified as directly “assessing and intervening.” Thirteen programs foster college aspirations. Among the list of programs assisting with college entry, 40 states participate in the federal AP Fee Reduction Program, reducing the cost of AP participation among students with a financial need and providing support for students who plan on using AP test scores to assist with college entry.

For additional information about AP implementation, we encourage you to access the CCRS Center’s interactive state map to see what states have received Advanced Placement Incentive Program Grants and what work has come out of receiving those grants.

Kathryn Balestreri is a research assistant with the College and Career Readiness and Success Center. 

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