experience.3 They call on the College Board to set quality standards for online laboratory components of science courses. It may be noted that, because only authorized schools can provide IB courses, laboratories, and examinations, third-party providers currently cannot offer programs that carry the IB name.


Disparities in access to AP and IB courses for students who live in inner-city and rural areas are a serious educational and social problem that is discussed throughout this report. However, other students in the United States also lack meaningful access to these courses because their schools deny them the opportunity to enroll.

Limiting Students’ Access to AP and IB

Limiting students’ access to advanced study occurs in all kinds of educational settings, including the most competitive high schools in America—schools with adequate resources, qualified teachers, and well-prepared students (Mathews, 1998b). These schools, while typically advocating college preparation for everyone, have created layers upon layers of curricular differentiation such that only a select group of students are allowed entrance into certain AP and honors courses; other students are placed in less prestigious courses4 (Attewell, 2001; Mathews, 1998b; Oakes and Wells, 2001).

In a recent study, Attewell (2001) finds that many high-achieving students from elite high schools are not able to take the AP courses they would have been able to take had they attended less prestigious schools. He attributes this phenomenon to the fact that many elite high schools provide their best students with opportunities to participate in AP and honors courses while denying access to others. He finds further that, as a function of these placement policies, many highly able students who attend elite high schools are less likely than similar students in other high schools to take advanced mathematics or science courses or examinations. Schools limit participation in part, Attewell contends, because restricting access to AP to the strongest students guarantees that the school’s overall pass rate on the final examina-


Strategies for providing laboratory experiences to online students are discussed in Chapter 5.


Mathews (1998b) estimates that each year, 25,000 interested and adequately prepared students in the United States are told they cannot take AP or IB courses. He further speculates that another 75,000 or more students who have the ability to do well in such courses do not elect to take them because no one encourages them to do so.

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