curriculum frameworks in mathematics and science. All 50 states test their students and 27 states hold schools accountable for results. The AP and IB programs are not predicated on state or national standards in any subject area, but can complement standards-based reform efforts. Both provide nationally recognized external measures of student achievement, but schools can implement the programs in ways that conform to local or state standards.

Students. High school students face competing time pressures. Typical students work 15–20 hours per week, spend 20–25 hours socializing, 5 hours in extracurricular activities, and 15 hours watching television. Significant numbers of students—particularly those from low-income families—think so much about problems at home that they cannot concentrate in school.

Unequal Access

There is an enduring belief that advanced study confers advantages to students in college; thus, ever-increasing numbers enroll in AP courses and IB programs. However, access to advanced study is uneven. Some high schools offer multiple sections in many AP subjects; others provide none. These differences are associated with school size and location, and the availability of AP and IB in a school decreases as the percentage of minority or low-income students increases, especially in mathematics and science. Even where available, students from underrepresented and low-income groups take advanced courses less frequently than students from other groups. Effective strategies for improving student participation in advanced study include eliminating low-level courses with reduced academic expectations, enhancing professional development for teachers, hiring qualified teachers for rural and inner-city schools, providing information to parents about long-term benefits of participating in such programs, and increasing student access to skilled counselors and mentors.

High School–College Interface

To understand the role AP and IB play in college admission decisions, the committee surveyed deans of admission. The survey revealed that participation in these programs is of greatest importance for admission to the most selective colleges. Deans view such participation as an indication of students’ willingness to accept academic challenges, but stated that the lack of such courses at an applicant’s high school typically does not adversely influence admission if a student succeeded in the most challenging courses available at his or her school.

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