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ERIC Number: ED499005
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2007-Nov
Pages: 52
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: N/A
Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate: Do They Deserve Gold Star Status?
Byrd, Sheila
Thomas B. Fordham Institute
For many people committed to strong academic standards, the "advanced" high school courses offered through the College Board's Advanced Placement program and, increasingly, the Diploma Programme of the International Baccalaureate Organisation (IBO) represent the curricular gold standard for secondary education. Admissions directors and professors at America's most competitive colleges have encouraged this view. Federal policymakers see in these courses the opportunity to give many more children access to first-rate curricula, and have poured a lot of money into them. Taken at face value, policies that induce more students to sign up for rigorous high school courses offer the best educational opportunities to more youngsters. Both AP and IB have been around for a long time; competitive universities use their student assessment data to make admissions or placement decisions; and the excellence of U.S. high schools are increasingly judged by the number of AP or IB courses they offer. Yet not everyone has climbed onto this education bandwagon. Some elite private and public high schools that gave AP its sheen are climbing off, even as more rural, minority, and inner-city students gain access to this program. These educators posit that AP courses are too rigid, confining, and single-minded, that they are a means to the ends of college admissions and credit rather than an opportunity for deep learning. At the same time, selective colleges and universities are showing some discomfort with the swelling population of students taking advanced coursework; they have been raising the minimum AP exam score that students must earn before the institutions will award them college credit. Some observers insist that the shift is prompted by college finances; others say it is an effort to increase institutional prestige in the ever more competitive admissions environment; still others contend that the shift in policy reflects a real apprehension that the AP course content and exam-scoring rubrics have been watered down in order to attract more and more diverse participants. This study is designed to determine whether these courses indeed represent a gold standard, and to assist policymakers as they gauge the worth of expanding AP and IB. Review of AP courses and exams include: Biology (Paul Gross); Calculus AB (Chester E. Finn, Jr., Martin A. Davis, Jr., and Sheila Byrd); English Literature & Composition (Sheila Byrd); and U.S. History (Sheldon Stern). IB courses and exams reviewed include: Biology SL (Paul Gross); Mathematics SL (Chester E. Finn, Jr., Martin A. Davis, Jr., and Sheila Byrd); Language A SL (Carol Jago); and World History (Lucien Ellington). ["Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate: Do They Deserve Gold Star Status?" was written with Lucien Ellington, Paul Gross, Carol Jago, and Sheldon Stern. A foreword was provided by Chester E. Finn, Jr. and Martin A. Davis, Jr.]
Thomas B. Fordham Foundation & Institute. 1701 K Street NW Suite 1000, Washington, DC 20006. Tel: 202-223-5452; Fax: 202-223-9226; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: High Schools
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, Washington, DC.
Identifiers - Location: United States