Dissertation: Justin Mason

Cohort 1, published 2010


The Role of the Teacher in Advanced Placement (AP) Access


The purpose of this study was to investigate the role of the teacher in Advanced Placement (AP) access for high school students. There are many benefits to students who participate in the AP program including access to a rigorous curriculum, college course credit or placement for successful completion of an AP exam, and an advantage when applying to competitive colleges and universities. Access to AP courses remains an unlikely opportunity for many low-income students who attend schools that offer few AP courses, and African-American and Latino students are underrepresented in AP participation. This study uses a mixed methods design with both quantitative and qualitative methods. The first phase of the study was an online survey of AP teachers in three school districts in Northern California. The second phase of the study used follow-up interviews to collect additional data from selected Advanced Placement teachers. The online survey and follow-up interviews were designed to collect data on the perceptions and practices of AP teachers in the pre-screening of AP students, the promoting of AP courses to students, and in determining AP course offerings. This study indicates that the AP teacher plays an important role in determining both student access to AP courses as well as in the decision making process of determining whether their school will offer a specific AP course. AP teachers reported students should be pre-screened before enrolling in an AP course at higher rates in larger schools (F=3.749, p=.033) and in schools with higher API scores (F=4.478, p=.018). Additionally, responses from the follow-up interviews indicate that teachers are making the decision to pre-screen students or to allow open access without following any state, district, or site policies. While an overwhelming majority of AP teachers report that it is part of their role to promote their AP course to students, only a small percentage are actively promoting their AP course to minority students and to students who are not already in an honors or AP track. This study indicates that the AP teacher can be a powerful factor in providing a more equitable access to AP courses as well as in closing the AP participation gap for historically underrepresented students.

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