NEPC Review: Systems for Success: Thinking Beyond Access to AP (The Education Trust, July 2017)
Amid burgeoning participation in AP coursework, a report by the Education Trust uses a case study of two exemplary high schools to address the question of how schools might support access to and success in AP programs by low-income students and students of color. It contends that a variety of interventions help promote access and success, including teacher support and development, analysis of class composition, careful scheduling, and provision of during- and after-school academic support. The report’s qualitative approach is well-suited to describing ways that schools can address the complex and deeply rooted problem of inequitable access to academic opportunity within secondary education. Encouraging underrepresented students to enroll in AP courses and then helping them succeed requires schools to engage in multilevel, holistic interventions that are not easily analyzed or described quantitatively. The report suffers, however, from lack of rigor in its description of methods and analysis. The scant detail on participants and data collection methods and the lack of discussion of how data were analyzed and used in the report weaken links between claims and evidence. The report, which focuses on two schools that enroll primarily Latinx students, would have also benefited from case studies of schools enrolling Black and Native American students—the groups that are most underrepresented in national AP enrollment and success rates.
Overall, while the report provides some inspiring examples, more detailed and rigorous description of methods and analysis would make a stronger case for the highlighted interventions.