tions will be very high, boosting their reputation with the top colleges they care most about influencing.

The committee agrees that AP and IB are not appropriate for all students. Some are not prepared for or do not want to take college-level courses in high school, and such courses are not appropriate for all high school students. However, research shows that there are few rigorous options outside of these classes, especially in high schools with well-developed AP and IB programs (Callahan, 2000). Thus, students who are denied access to or choose not to take these classes are forced to enroll in what are often far less challenging options.


Prerequisites are frequently used as gatekeepers to regulate enrollment in AP and IB courses. Sometimes this practice is deemed necessary because there is limited space. In other cases, the school simply wants to control which students take the courses to maintain quality (as represented, for example, by high test scores). The committee reviewed more than 100 curriculum guides prepared by individual high schools for their students, parents, and teachers. This review revealed that prerequisite requirements for enrollment in AP or IB courses range from open admission to highly restrictive criteria such as PSAT scores above a certain threshold, all A’s in courses leading up to the AP courses, uniformly high teacher recommendations, and evidence of consistently high levels of motivation or excellent work habits. Many of these guides also contain statements to the effect that students who take courses for which they are not recommended must have signed permission from a parent absolving the teacher and the school from responsibility if the student does not succeed. If measures are to be used to extend or restrict access to AP and IB courses, the committee urges that schools demonstrate that their criteria for entry to advanced study are valid predictors of student success.


AP Program

Throughout this report, the committee has challenged the assumption that AP courses uniformly reflect the content coverage and conceptual understanding that is developed in good college courses. We now ask whether students who place out of introductory courses in college on the basis of their AP scores are as well prepared for further study as their peers who take the introductory courses in college.

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