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Learning and Understanding: Improving Advanced Study of Mathematics and Science in U.S. High Schools
demands and needs of modern times.5 The needed changes, according to Riley, must include high expectations for all students, rigorous curricula, support for students who need help in meeting higher standards, an educational structure that is flexible in meeting students’ needs, and well-prepared teachers who have adequate opportunities for professional development and the time to work together in achieving student and school goals. In light of all of the recent criticism leveled at high schools, many policymakers and educators have turned to AP6 and IB to improve their academic programs (see for example, The National Education Goals Panel, Promising Practices, Goal 3,7 and legislation in Virginia8 and California9). Rod Paige, current U.S. Secretary of Education, has continued the Department of Education’s support for AP in 2001–2002 by providing $6.5 million in grants to 18 states, the District of Columbia, and Guam so that thousands of students from low-income backgrounds can prepare for and take AP examinations.10 Several states also have adopted policies to support IB that are similar to those for AP.
In the view of many educators and policymakers, AP and IB complement the nation’s decentralized system of educational governance and the different approaches that states and districts have adopted with regard to academic standards, curriculum, and instruction. That is, AP and IB are national programs that are controlled locally. Both programs provide a basic structure, quality standards, and nationally recognized external measures of student achievement, but states and individual schools can decide which students are able to take the courses, who is qualified to teach them, and how the courses will be taught.
At least 26 states provide legislative support to AP programs in their schools by subsidizing examination fees or costs for teacher education, pro-
Secretary Riley called on all schools to add one AP course to their curricular offerings for each of the next 10 years (ending in 2010) so that every student in every high school in the United States could have access to at least ten AP courses. The Federal AP Incentive Act (1999) provided funds to help low-income students pay the fees for AP examinations.
The National Education Goals Panel uses an increase in the number of AP examinations receiving a grade of 3 or higher per 1,000 students in grades 11 and 12 to recognize schools with promising practices (http://www.negp.gov [February 11, 2002]).
Virginia’s Board of Education established an accountability system that requires every school division in the Commonwealth to offer at least two AP courses (www.pen.k12.va.us [February 11, 2002]).