Closing the advanced placement opportunity gap for traditionally underrepresented students
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Exposure to rigorous curriculum is a significant predictor of college persistence and success. Traditionally underrepresented students, those who are African American, Hispanic, and identified as economically disadvantaged often do not engage in Advance Placement (AP) courses. There are several factors that lead to decreased participation of underrepresented students in AP courses including lack of information and education of the benefits of engaging in the AP curriculum. The purpose of this study was to examine the social capital of students and the students’ perceptions of their high school experiences related to college readiness. This study examined student perspectives in the areas of attitude toward college, teacher expectations and interactions, college readiness, school-wide support, and parental engagement. Additionally, student perspective was examined related to their high school experiences in terms of preparation for college and support from school faculty. Data were collected from a purposeful sample of seniors enrolled in English IV. The participants were individually matched by enrollment or non-enrollment in AP courses, gender, and ethnicity. The matched sample consisted of 123 students in AP courses and 123 students not in AP courses. Nine students participated in a focus group to obtain a deeper understanding of their high school experiences. The findings in this study show overall students in AP courses and those not in AP courses have comparable perspectives of their high school experiences as it relates to attitude toward college, teacher expectations and interactions, school wide support, and parental engagement. Only in the area of college readiness do students not enrolled in AP courses perceive they are not as prepared as their counterparts enrolled in AP courses. The focus group data revealed students felt their teachers and the College and Career Advisor were instrumental in assisting them with college planning and course selection. The students in the focus group spoke to the influence of their peers in selecting courses. The students also pointed to the importance of participating in extracurricular activities as a way to round out their high school experiences.