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Educational policy analysis archives.
n Vol. 8, no. 40 (August 01, 2000).
Tempe, Ariz. :
b Arizona State University ;
Tampa, Fla. :
University of South Florida.
c August 01, 2000
Advanced placement : access not exclusion / Wayne Camara, Neil J. Dorans, Rick Morgan, [and] Carol Myford.
Arizona State University.
University of South Florida.
t Education Policy Analysis Archives (EPAA)
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1 of 11 Volume 8 Number 40August 1, 2000ISSN 1068-2341 A peer-reviewed scholarly electronic journal Editor: Gene V Glass, College of Education Arizona State University Copyright 2000, the EDUCATION POLICY ANALYSIS ARCHIVES. Permission is hereby granted to copy any article if EPAA is credited and copies are not sold. Articles appearing in EPAA are abstracted in the Current Index to Journals in Education by the ERIC Clearinghouse on Assessment and Evaluation and are permanently archived in Resources in Education Advanced Placement: Access Not Exclusion Wayne Camara The College Board Neil J. Dorans Rick Morgan Carol Myford Educational Testing ServiceAbstract Lichten (2000) argues that increased access to AP courses in high schools has led to a decline in AP quality. He uses a mix of actual data, inaccurate data, and fabricated data to support thi s hypothesis. A logical consequence of his argument is that a reduction in the availability of AP courses will lead to an improvement in AP quality. In this paper, we maintain that his thesis is flawed because he confo unds quality with scarcity. In contrast to his narrow conception of q uality, quality in the AP context is subjectspecific and multifaceted, embr acing course content, the teacher, the student as well as the exam. Incre ased access will not diminish quality. Instead, increased access exposes students to college-level course material, encourages teachers to expand their knowledge domains, serves as a lever for lifting cu rriculum rigor, and
2 of 11provides students with the opportunity to experienc e the challenges associated with advanced placement in college. Quality. What is quality? How do we measure quality? How do we improve quality? Lichten (2000), in his study "Whither Advanced Plac ement?," attempts to assess the quality of the Advanced Placement Progra m. We believe he fails for several reasons, many of which revolve around his narrow, s implistic definition of quality. We address these concerns in the following section, en titled "Quality."; Then we point out the many "Inaccuracies, Fabrications, and Leaps of Logic" in Lichten's study; indeed, he seems to use data the way an impassioned partisan w ould in fashioning an opinion piece for an op-ed page. We then explain in the section AP Grades" how AP grade levels are set, since Lichten's lack of understanding of t he linkage between AP grades and college standards may have confused readers. Finall y, we address the issue of ";Access and Elitism," contrasting Lichten's exclusionary id eal with the College Board's goal of widening the circle of students who have access to AP and its challenging curriculum. Quality Any effort to assess the quality of the AP Program must recognize its diversity and complexity, and the fact that each discipline has u nique characteristics that must be taken into account. One size does not fit all. Some disciplines are more constant and well defined, which makes it easier to shape AP cou rse descriptions and assess student capability. Other disciplines (such as computer sci ence, for example) are continually evolving; the challenge is to be responsive to anti cipated developments in an ever-changing field. The diversity of students taking AP also ad ds to the complexity. They do not enter a course with the same level of preparedness for unde rtaking rigorous college-level course work. Some exam-takers come to the AP course with a head start. The advantage that native speakers of Spanish have in the AP Spanish L anguage and AP Spanish Literature courses is obvious. A similar, yet less apparent, a dvantage might be possessed by the children of physicists who might receive preparatio n for science courses through home-based experiences, when it comes to science co urses. As AP offers opportunities to more and more students, the range of backgrounds of these students will increase commensurately. Lichten ignores this diversity and complexi ty to promote his viewpoint. To him, quality can be captured in a simple operational def inition: the ratio of the number of advanced placements made by colleges to the number of AP examinations taken, regardless of the subject area or the preparation o f the students. By this standard, AP Spanish Language is a high quality examination beca use its many native Spanish speakers are very likely to receive advanced placem ent credit. Conversely, the AP Chemistry exam is lower in quality because the corr esponding ratio is not as high as for AP Spanish Language. This narrow, simplistic definition of quali ty is flawed for several reasons. First, the ratio is subject to many factors that have little o r nothing to do with quality. For example, students vary with respect to the preparat ion they bring to the AP course, and their performance on the exam may reflect their var ied backgrounds. This affects the top part of the ratio. External factors, such as certai n legislative initiatives that provide payment for students' AP Examination fees, will inc rease the number of students who
3 of 11take AP exams, which in turn affects the bottom par t of the ratio. Neither preexisting differences in preparation nor external initiatives affect the quality of the AP course or its examination (or the scoring or grade standards for the exams), yet they affect the ratio definition of quality Lichten uses. Second, Lichten ignores the distinct nature of each AP course by aggregating results across all courses; for example, treating a 3 on the AP Spanish Language exam as if it means the same thing as a 3 on the AP Chemist ry exam. Quality is a complex concept. Ignoring the fact that each course and exa m is unique is akin to treating all elements as if they had the same atomic weight. Any serious scholarly treatment of the AP Program must recognize the uniqueness of each co urse. Third, and most critical, Lichten's definit ion confuses quality with scarcity. Scarcity does not improve quality; it merely alters the cont ext from which we judge it. He argues that access to AP must be restricted or limited in order to restore AP quality. This sounds like an OPEC argument with respect to oil pr oduction. Limit oil production (access to AP courses), and the price of oil will r ise (Lichten's quality index will increase). Certainly, the price of oil will increas e. But will its quality increase? Of course not. Likewise, restricting access to AP courses wil l make the number of qualified candidates smaller. But will it increase the qualit y of the AP courses and examinations? Instead of viewing knowledge in disciplines as the exclusive domain of a selected few, the AP Program employs a model based on access The more people know about math and the sciences, music and the arts, and lang uages, the more they and society will profit from this knowledge. AP is rooted in the mer itocratic principles that led to the foundation of ETS by the College Board and other pa rties interested in tapping the potential that lay within America (Lemann, 1999). A P was never to be a barrier to access. Instead it should serve as an avenue for ac cess. Students should be encouraged to maximize their capabilities. Quality, as AP defines it, should be measured by the number of students who have been positively influenced by taking AP courses, rather than by the ratio of the number of advanced placements to the n umber of exams administered. The College Board states in its publication A Guide to the Advanced Placement Program (The College Board, 1999), Â“There are many benefits for students who take AP courses. They can study subjects they are intereste d in and challenge themselves with students who are similarly motivated. AP often help s steer students who are unsure about future plans toward college or advanced studi esÂ…AP prepares students for the future by giving them tools that will serve them we ll throughout their college career (p. 6).Â” The quality of the AP Program is multidimensio nal and rests on three pillars of quality: fair, valid, and reliable assessments; rig orous introductory college-level curricula; and exemplary teacher professional devel opment. AP strives to ensure that the exam scoring and scaling are accurate and of high q uality (as measured by statistical/psychometric indices of accuracy, relia bility, and validity). Teacher quality and student preparedness are important factors that also influence quality. Quality also manifests itself in the effect s that AP has on students who take the courses but do not take the exam or who do take the exam but do not seek or receive college credit or advanced placement. By Lichten's standards, a student appears on the quality side of the ledger only if she receives adv anced placement at the university she attends. Therefore a student who has a 3 on an exam will not receive advanced placement at a college that requires a 4, but will receive it at a college requiring a 3. If the student goes to the college requiring the 4, sh e is a debit on the quality ledger; if she goes to the other college, she is a plus on the Lic hten index. From the AP perspective, the in-depth exposure to the discipline and quality instruction that the student received are the same regardless of which college she attend s. She learned from the course; the
4 of 11existence of the course at her school enhanced the overall value of education at that school. While difficult to quantify, it is hard to argue that the existence of AP courses at more schools hurts quality, unless the definition o f quality that one adopts confounds scarcity with quality. Finally, AP quality is carefully monitored within each subject domain. AP, as a matter of course, strives to ensure that the exam, grading, scaling, and scoring are accurate and of high quality (as measured by statis tical/psychometric indices of accuracy, reliability, and validity). Enhancing cou rse quality is an important component of the AP process as well. Teacher professional dev elopment and student preparedness are important factors that also influence quality. Inaccuracies, Fabrications, and Leaps of Logic In addition to using a narrow, simplistic d efinition of quality, Lichten (2000) commits several serious errors in scholarship and m akes erroneous assumptions about the use and utility of AP. Table 6 is filled with inaccuracies. The nu mber of exams is misreported by 10,000 in 1980 and by over 100,000 in the speculation for 2000. The basis for the percent of qualifying grades is never stated for any year and is thus left to the imagination of the reader. If one assumes that the author is using the percent of AP grades of 3 or higher, the percentage for 1960 is 49% rather than 75%. In 1970, 66% of AP grades were 3 or higher rather than the 75% Lichten reported. Likewi se, the percentage for 1980 is off by 1% and the actual percentage for 1990 differs by 4% The basis for any of the entries for 2000 and 2010 appears to be pure speculation, as ar e the percentages qualifying for earlier years. Due to the inaccuracies in the lefthand side of the table, the right-hand side errors are substantial (10% inaccuracy in the last column for 1980). The fabrications in the data throughout the entire paper call to que stion the quality of the scholarship of the document and the inferences made from them. Lichten creates a table of SAT and AP data from ETS and College Board sources. In preparing this table, he assumed that the colleg e associated with each examinee was the college that the student attended. This is corr ect for students who sent grades to only one college. For those who sent grades to multiple colleges, the college in the Lichten data was the last one on the student's list of coll eges. This reality calls into question the validity of his assumption (which would hold true o nly if every student went to the college that was last on their lists), and any infe rences that depend on the validity of the assumption. Table 2 is not only based on a questionable assumption, it also appears to involve unacknowledged estimation on the part of the author He states that Â“55% of 3s pass.Â” Unless Lichten contacted every college for their nu mbers of AP grades of 3, numbers of AP 4s, and their numbers of AP grades of 5 received he is stating as fact something that he is fabricating. As discussed earlier, Table 6 sh ows that his estimations are often quite inaccurate. The text indicates that the data in Table 5 were obtained from ETS. Standard practice is to cite where the data have been publis hed before, and which colleges supplied data. It addition, it would have been help ful to know what constituted remedial classes to calculus. While focusing on the 24% (the paper incorrectly states 22%) of students with AP grades of 3 who took the second or third calculus as their first mathematics course, Lichten again misses the point about the benefits of AP. Exposing students to a rigorous college-level course at high school surely has many benefits. It is clear that the study is unbalanced in its treatment of the issues. When there is
5 of 11competing evidence that refutes his assumptions, Li chten chooses not to cite it. Likewise, when there are alternative explanations f or the findings he cites, those interpretations are not posited, even in a footnote Selective citation may be acceptable in op-ed pieces, but it has no place in a scientifi c journal. Some examples follow: Lichten cites a lawsuit against the University of C alifornia as evidence against the AP Program. The plaintiffs argue that access to AP must be extended to all California high school students in order to make th e admissions playing field more level. This increased access would actually damage quality as defined by the Lichten index. Thus, Lichten uses a lawsuit that ad vocates greater access to AP to argue against greater access to AP. The author uses a quotation from Bowen and Bok (199 8) about the need for government to respect the autonomy of colleges as e vidence that the College Board and Bowen and Bok disagree with respect to go vernment involvement in AP. The author uses a leap in logic to infer that B owen and Bok are opposed to government involvement in reducing student fees for the economically disadvantaged and in supporting governmental fundin g of teacher professional development. Is this what Bowen and Bok had in mind when they argued against government intervention in academic matters? The author claims Â“This disparity [between the Coll ege Board's grade equivalent recommendations and the cut points used by some col leges for advanced placement and/or college credit] is a sign of the r emarkably poor communication between colleges and the College Board.Â” As explain ed below in the section Â“AP Grades,Â” the AP grade recommendations reflect empir ical results from college comparability studies; when they differ from specif ic institutional cut points it is not based on lack of communication, but on differen t judgements by faculty about the level of performance they believe should be exp ected. Lichten bases his argument largely on his realization that colleges h ave their own admissions and placement policies. The College Board has no desire to tell any college what it should or should not require of students for admiss ion or placement. Certainly, institutions vary in what they expect in terms of G PA, SAT, participation in extracurricular activities, as well as in AP requir ements. These differences do not invalidate any of these measures or claims about ge neral preparedness. Lichten cites Morgan and Ramist (1998) as having co llected data from colleges that receive large numbers of AP grades, but he ign ores the conclusions of the study that support the awarding of advanced placeme nt. Morgan and Ramist found that AP students performed well in upper-level cour ses after being placed out of the introductory courses. For the majority of these upper-level courses, students with AP grades of 3 had higher course-grade average s than those students who had taken an introductory course prior to the upper -level course. Lichten asserts that the majority of AP faculty con sultants should come from colleges. Moreover, he dismisses college faculty wh o teach at community colleges and describes faculty from some four-year instituti ons as coming from Â“typically very low-level institutions.Â” We wonder how Lichten arrived at his quality judgements of college faculty in all 32 AP subject areas. In addition, the author fails to report that the number of AP faculty consu ltants from four-year colleges is larger today than ever before. Lichten also fails to note that the curriculum for an AP course is based on curriculum surveys of the colleges who receive the most AP grades for that content area. Furthermore, college faculty members serve on the AP
6 of 11Developmental Committees that create each exam. The Chief Faculty Consultant, who is in charge of the free-response scoring, also serves as a very strong link to college faculty. In addition, when major changes ar e made to the AP curriculum (for example, graphing calculators being integrated into the teaching of calculus and computer languages changing), representatives f rom the disciplines' professional organizations participate in the devel opment effort. Finally, stating as truth something that is the aut hor's opinion is a pervasive problem in the study. Several statements call for citations, b ut none are present. Here are some examples: Â“Some colleges, not all highly selective, will not accept a 5Â” for AP credit. Table 2 and the associated text provide no specifics. Â“A serious source of disagreement between College B oard and higher education faculty is the increasing number of legal restricti ons.Â” Â“College faculty and deans cast a jaundiced eye on mandatory high school participation, which they view as dragging in schoo ls that are not qualified to handle AP.Â” Â“The College Board's qualification estimates (Table 1), backed by mandates in a growing number of states, would require acceptance into advanced courses of candidates with a score of '3'.Â” Â“The pressure from mandates is on college faculty e ither to go along and lower quality or to misreport their AP policy.Â” Â“With few exceptions, national and state standardiz ed tests fail to cover abilities needed in college.Â” AP Grades Lichten contends that the College Board's g rade equivalents for AP courses are misleading because colleges use different standards for awarding college credit or advanced placement. There are flaws in this argumen t. The AP grade equivalents are empirically es tablished through research that compares student performance on AP Examinations wit h the grades students achieve in comparable introductory courses at college. Such gr ade equivalency studies are conducted with college students attending a range o f colleges. Typically, instructors at the 200 colleges receiving the largest number of AP grades for the AP Exam under evaluation are asked to have their students take portions of the appropriate AP Exam under motivated conditions. The lowest composite score that earns an AP grade of 5 is set to represent the aver age performance equivalent of college students who earn grades of A from their instructor on the AP Exam. The lowest composite score that earns an AP grade of 4 represe nts the average performance level equivalent of college students who earn grades of B from their instructor on the AP Exam. The lowest composite score that earns AP grad es of 3 and 2 represents those college students receiving grades of C and D, respe ctively, on the AP Exam. Thus, the AP grade scale reflects a consistent standard of st udent performance that is empirically related to college grades. Lichten asserts that the AP grade scale is misleading and that a Â“yawning gapÂ” is created between AP grades and college grading polic ies because some colleges and departments reject the AP recommendation for awardi ng credit and/or advanced placement to students with an AP grade of 3 as evid ence that AP grades are misleading.
7 of 11Individual colleges, and often individual academic departments, establish their own policies for awarding college credit and/or advance d placement for a particular AP grade. It is the specific AP grades that individual colleges use and the course grades at these colleges that differ widely, as perhaps they should. The standard embodied in an AP grade level on a particular exam, e.g., AP Calcu lus, is the same across institutions; institutional use of AP grades varies across instit utions.Access and Elitism The most disturbing aspects of the Lichten report are the repeated statements and inferences that the quality of the AP Program could only be maintained Â“as long as AP served a small, elite population chosen from select ive schools (p.13).Â” Additional statements that minority students are not likely to succeed in AP and that better selection of students into AP courses is required to reestabl ish AP quality are equally troubling. AP data do illustrate that African-American student s and Hispanic students generally perform less well on AP Exams than do Asian-America n students and White students. Nevertheless, African-American students and Hispani c students can and do succeed in AP. For example, in the last year, there was a 23% increase over the previous year in the number of African-American students who received AP grades of 3 or higher in Charlotte-Mecklenburg, North Carolina. In the 1999-2000 academic year, the AP Prog ram consisted of 32 college-level courses delivered in approximately 13,000 schools t o over 700,000 students who completed more than 1.25 million exams. The net imp act of AP is that many more students are taking rigorous and challenging introd uctory college-level courses while in high school. Some of these students may elect not t o take the AP Examination, others may take the Examination but not meet an individual college's requirement for advanced placement, and others may be entitled to advanced p lacement in a subject but not elect to place out of the introductory course. Yet most, if not all, of these students will have benefited from participating in AP. And, as more st udents complete AP courses, more teachers are completing AP professional development and mastering the teaching of challenging courses and preparing students in earli er grades to be ready for AP-level work in high school. The net effect is to raise aca demic standards throughout middle and high school and greatly expand the pool and diversi ty of students exposed to challenging AP courses. In 1979, only 485 African-American and Hisp anic students took Calculus AB. Forty-eight percent (236 of 495) of those students earned grades of 3 or higher. In 1999, the number of African-American and Hispanic student s earning grades of 3 on the Calculus AB exam increased to 4,889 (a 2072% increa se). Lichten may point out that the percentage of AP grades of 3 for these students dec reased from 48% to 41%, but one should also note the increase in opportunity for Af rican-American and Hispanic students. Nearly ten times more African-American an d Hispanic students received AP grades of 3 or higher in 1999 than even took the AP Calculus AB Exam in 1979. In fact, in a recent publication, Lichten and Wainer (2000) state Â“Â…the PSAT-AP relation tells us that a major expansion of advanced placement ach ievement is possible in this country in all types of schools: inner city, high-performin g suburbs, and just garden-variety schools. A doubling of the number of AP students is not only possible, but is likely within the next decade or so (p. 223).Â” Yet in his study, the same author recommend s reducing access to challenging courses such as AP to Â“only a small minority of abo ve average high school students.Â” The author is opposed to legislative efforts to pre pare more students for success in AP
8 of 11and other rigorous courses through expanded teacher development and initiatives in the middle schools. Restricting access to only the high est ability students attending the most selective high schools is elitist and runs counter to the goals and mission of AP and the College Board. The author attempts to construct a r ationale for restricting access to AP and turning back the clock, based on half-truths, c onstructed data, and selective citations. He does not cite his sources and ignores research suggestive of alternatives. We believe his study does not meet even the minimal scholarly standards for a scientific publication and we reject the unsupported assertion s made throughout. NoteThe order of authorship is alphabetical. The work w as a collaboration. The views in this article represent the opinions of the authors and n ot those of the College Board or the Educational Testing Service. The paper was enhanced significantly by the authors following suggestions from Janet Cook, Drew Gitomer Lee Jones, and Walter MacDonald.ReferencesBowen, W.G. & Bok, D. (1998). The shape of the river: Long-term consequences of considering race in college and university admissio ns Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Lemann, N. (1999). The big test: The secret history of the American me ritocracy New York, NY: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux.Lichten, W. (2000, June 24). Â“Whither Advanced Plac ement?Â” Education Policy Analysis Archives, 8, (29). [Online] Available http://epaa.asu.edu/eppa/v8n29.html [Augiust 1, 2000]Lichten, W. & Wainer, H. (2000). The aptitude-achie vement function: An aid for allocating educational resources with an Advanced P lacement Example. Educational Psychology Review 12 (2), 201-228. Morgan, R. & Ramist, L. (1998). Advanced Placement students in college: An investigation of course grades at 21 colleges. (Sta tistical Report 98-13). Princeton, NJ: Educational Testing Service. Available http://colle geboard.org/ap/colleges/sr-9813.pdf.About the AuthorsWayne J. CamaraOffice of Research and DevelopmentThe College Board45 Columbus Ave.New York, NY 10023212-713-8069fax 212-649-8427 Email: email@example.com
9 of 11 Wayne J. Camara is the Vice President for Research and Development at The College Board. He is responsible for monitoring, coordinati ng and conducting all research and product development associated with the range of Co llege Board assessments, services, and programs. He has served as the Assistant Execut ive Director of Science at the American Psychological Association (APA) directing scientific involvement in policy and research activities. His principle areas of res earch are test validity, selection and admissions testing, standards and professional prac tice in testing, legal and regulatory issues relating to assessment, and public policy is sues in assessment. Dr. Camara completed a Ph.D. in industrial-organizational psyc hology at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana. Neil J. Dorans is a Principal Measurement Statistician at Educati onal Testing Service. He is currently the statistical coordinator for the Advanced Placement Program. He has extensive experience in the statistical work associ ated with large-scale high-stakes testing programs, such as the SAT I. Dr. Dorans was the architect for the recentered SAT I and II scales. He also developed a flexible, easy -to-use method for assessing differential item functioning for selected choice a nd constructed response items. Dr. Dorans completed a Ph. D. in quantitative psycholog y at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana.Rick Morgan is a Program Administrator at Educational Testing Service for the Advanced Placement Program. During the 1990s he ser ved as the statistical coordinator for several testing programs including AP. He has p ublished research in the areas of exam validity, constructed response testing, and th e impact of allowing examinee choice. Dr. Morgan completed his Ph. D at The Ohio State University in quantitative psychology and later was a post-doctoral fellow in measurement at Indiana University. Carol Myford is a Senior Research Scientist in the Center for M easurement Models at Educational Testing Service. Her program of researc h at ETS focuses on scoring issues in performance and portfolio assessments. She has c onducted studies related to rater training, designing scoring rubrics, quality contro l monitoring, improving rater performance, and detecting different types of rater errors. Dr. Myford received her doctoral degree from the University of Chicago. Copyright 2000 by the Education Policy Analysis ArchivesThe World Wide Web address for the Education Policy Analysis Archives is epaa.asu.edu General questions about appropriateness of topics o r particular articles may be addressed to the Editor, Gene V Glass, firstname.lastname@example.org or reach him at College of Education, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ 8 5287-0211. (602-965-9644). The Commentary Editor is Casey D. C obb: email@example.com .EPAA Editorial Board Michael W. Apple University of Wisconsin Greg Camilli Rutgers University
10 of 11 John Covaleskie Northern Michigan University Alan Davis University of Colorado, Denver Sherman Dorn University of South Florida Mark E. Fetler California Commission on Teacher Credentialing Richard Garlikov firstname.lastname@example.org Thomas F. Green Syracuse University Alison I. Griffith York University Arlen Gullickson Western Michigan University Ernest R. House University of Colorado Aimee Howley Ohio University Craig B. Howley Appalachia Educational Laboratory William Hunter University of Calgary Daniel Kalls Ume University Benjamin Levin University of Manitoba Thomas Mauhs-Pugh Green Mountain College Dewayne Matthews Western Interstate Commission for HigherEducation William McInerney Purdue University Mary McKeown-Moak MGT of America (Austin, TX) Les McLean University of Toronto Susan Bobbitt Nolen University of Washington Anne L. Pemberton email@example.com Hugh G. Petrie SUNY Buffalo Richard C. Richardson New York University Anthony G. Rud Jr. Purdue University Dennis Sayers Ann Leavenworth Centerfor Accelerated Learning Jay D. Scribner University of Texas at Austin Michael Scriven firstname.lastname@example.org Robert E. Stake University of IllinoisÂ—UC Robert Stonehill U.S. Department of Education David D. Williams Brigham Young UniversityEPAA Spanish Language Editorial BoardAssociate Editor for Spanish Language Roberto Rodrguez Gmez Universidad Nacional Autnoma de Mxico email@example.com Adrin Acosta (Mxico) Universidad de Guadalajaraadrianacosta@compuserve.com J. Flix Angulo Rasco (Spain) Universidad de Cdizfelix.firstname.lastname@example.org
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