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ADVANCED PLACMENT COURSES AND IB PROGRAMS: THEIR ROLE IN SERVICES FOR GIFTED STUDENTS. Carolyn Callahan University of Virginia Background and Philosophies of the Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate Programs. Advanced Placement Courses.

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Advanced placment courses and ib programs their role in services for gifted students


Carolyn Callahan

University of Virginia

Background and philosophies of the advanced placement and international baccalaureate programs
Background and Philosophies of the Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate Programs

Advanced placement courses
Advanced Placement Courses International Baccalaureate Programs

  • Response to Ford Foundation early college entrance program

  • Not developed as a program or courses for gifted students or with any specific philosophy of gifted

  • Originally for seniors only

Exponential growth in ap
Exponential Growth in AP International Baccalaureate Programs

International baccalaureate
International Baccalaureate International Baccalaureate Programs

  • Response to international educators

  • Standard college preparatory program with standard international college entrance exam—Diploma Program

  • Originally for gifted students

Changes in ib
Changes in IB International Baccalaureate Programs

  • Originally only at the high school level

    • Have added Middle Years Program and Primary Program

  • May now elect IB Career-Related Certificate

  • Now also available online

International baccalaureate1
International Baccalaureate International Baccalaureate Programs


  • total of 2283 schools offered the DP

  • 61,894 students registered in DP programs

APPROVALS International Baccalaureate Programs

  • AP –now requires course syllabus approval

  • IB –school must apply and meet standards set by IB for teaching faculty and financial commitment

Currently International Baccalaureate Programs

  • Serve as the primary “gifted” program options at the high school level

Research on ap ib courses
Research on AP & IB Courses International Baccalaureate Programs

Framework for the presentation of the research

Major questions addressed in research on ap and ib
Major questions addressed in research on AP and IB International Baccalaureate Programs

Impacts of AP and IB on:

  • Student satisfaction

  • Learning outcomes

  • Success in college

Data sources
Data Sources International Baccalaureate Programs

  • Surveys of student and teacher satisfaction

  • Data on college success

  • Appropriateness of AP and IB for minority students

  • Studies have not been constructed in ways that allow examination of differential effects on gifted students

Our specific study
OUR SPECIFIC STUDY International Baccalaureate Programs

Research questions
Research Questions International Baccalaureate Programs

  • How do teachers conceptualize and implement curriculum, instruction, and assessment for high-end learners in AP and IB classrooms?

  • To what extent do the environments created by AP and IB programs and courses meet the needs of gifted learners, including those from traditionally under-served populations?

Data sources1
Data Sources International Baccalaureate Programs

  • Classroom observations

  • Interviews:

    • Teacher interviews (individual and focus groups)

    • Focus group interviews with participating students

    • Interviews with eligible but non-participating students (focus groups and individual)

    • Administrator interviews

  • Document analysis

  • Observer field notes

Sample International Baccalaureate Programs

  • 23 high schools from 7 states including CA

  • High schools represent varied metropolitan areas, student SES, cultural groups, scope of programs (AP, IB, both AP and IB, other services)

  • Approximately 200 teachers, 300 students, 25 administrators/coordinators, 8 counselors

  • Included both students in AP and IB courses and students who had once been, but were no longer enrolled

So… what did we learn? International Baccalaureate Programs

And how did our findings corroborate other researchers’ findings?

No simple answers to our questions
No simple answers to our questions International Baccalaureate Programs

Sometimes International Baccalaureate Programs our data was supportive of use of AP and IB as options for gifted students; but with many caveats

Ap and ib teacher themes

AP and IB Teacher Themes International Baccalaureate Programs

Ap and ib teachers
AP and IB teachers: International Baccalaureate Programs

  • Veteran teachers

Student perceptions
Student Perceptions International Baccalaureate Programs

  • Dedicated

  • Hardworking

  • Highly motivated

  • Usually, but not always, “good teachers”

Student voices ap teachers
Student Voices: AP teachers International Baccalaureate Programs

“She uses a curriculum that is way below AP level or even honors level… she’s used to dealing with kids who don’t want to learn anything, and that’s kind of the way she treats us. I feel like she treats us like we’re in elementary school.” (Student Interview, Mill Valley HS)


TRAINING International Baccalaureate Programs

Inconsistently trained

Perceptions of the curriculum
Perceptions of the Curriculum International Baccalaureate Programs

Identify many advantages to teaching these courses

Believe their courses provide college-level challenge

Perceptions of the curriculum1
Perceptions of the Curriculum International Baccalaureate Programs

Extraordinary pressure to teach to the exams

Exam pressure
Exam Pressure International Baccalaureate Programs

“When you keep hearing, you know, you’ve got to make these scores, you’ve got to have this many pass... you keep finding yourself going back to that idea of… okay, I’ve got to teach them this, this, and this, and well, this part of this isn’t tested, so I’ll leave that out and I’ll teach it to them next year.” (Teacher Interview, Swingback HS)


Other corroborating studies
Other corroborating studies International Baccalaureate Programs

  • Experienced AP science teachers felt a need to adopt a “strong lecture format and minimize time-consuming, student-centered activities such as laboratory experiments, student projects, and student presentations

  • 1/3 of the AP science teachers participating in the Herr study judged the pace of AP to be too fast and indicated a preference to switch to honors if given a choice.

  • Also indicated that they failed to spend time on topics that piqued the interests of students because of demands to cover large amounts of material

A Tale of Two Teachers… International Baccalaureate Programs

A tale of two teachers
A Tale of Two Teachers International Baccalaureate Programs

Ms. Night

“She says she doesn’t know how to get these students to pass the AP test. She says that she’s going to have problems because of their backgrounds– she says they are mostly ‘deprived,’ their parents aren’t educated and never got through school, and that most of the parents are very young. Ms. Night says that the school is trying to get to that culture, to encourage them to work hard, but they don’t do their homework, they’re failing everything.” (Researcher Field Notes, Jackson HS)


A tale of two teachers1
A Tale of Two Teachers International Baccalaureate Programs

Ms. Day

“This year, the class was really incensed about the black legend and how they really felt that it underpinned American History II. So they, therefore, decided that would be their thesis topic. Once the AP test is over, then they would do two weeks of very intensive research. They work cooperatively in groups. Then the co-editors and I go down and have it published and I also let them talk to the principal about getting the money so they understand those kinds of relationships. Then we produce the book and we give one to each of our school board members. We put one in the Smithsonian. We put one in the local library. We keep one in our library.” (Teacher Interview, Jackson HS)


Teacher opinions
Teacher Opinions International Baccalaureate Programs

  • 5 most pressing issues

    • keeping up with changing discipline content,

    • integrating new teaching methods,

    • preparing students for assessments,

    • dealing with lack of family involvement, and

    • accessing good professional development.

  • Belief that expansion of the AP program to larger numbers of students might “dumb down” AP course curriculum

A look into ap ib classrooms
A look into AP/IB classrooms… International Baccalaureate Programs

Curriculum/ Instruction in AP and IB Classrooms… International Baccalaureate Programs

Determined by the tests and course guides

Expectations challenge
EXPECTATIONS/CHALLENGE International Baccalaureate Programs

  • Generally high

  • Level of challenge varies

INSTRUCTION International Baccalaureate Programs

  • Quality/mode varies from classroom to classroom

  • Dominated by fast-paced instruction, lecture, Q&A

  • Emphasis is on exam (test prep)– particularly in month before exam

Perceptions of students and impact on instruction
Perceptions of Students and Impact on Instruction International Baccalaureate Programs

Teacher perceptions of student homogeneity
Teacher Perceptions of Student International Baccalaureate ProgramsHomogeneity

“When they get to the AP level classes, then everybody’s the same, pretty much. It’s much more homogeneous, and they’re always expecting you to teach to a much higher level.”

“When teaching AP students, you don’t have to spend time filling gaps and catching people up, and so you spend more time looking at things more in-depth.”

Later –consider implications for students from traditionally underserved populations


Student themes

Student Themes International Baccalaureate Programs

Udents in ap

UDENTS IN AP International Baccalaureate Programs


THE ONES WHO PERSIST International Baccalaureate Programs

CHALLENGE-SEEKING International Baccalaureate Programs








International Baccalaureate Programs The successful AP student is highly disciplined, confident, lacking in fear…and self-driven. They want to succeed and if they are not succeeding they talk to me about it.”

Teacher interview – Swingback High School

Student perceptions of ap the legend of ap
Student Perceptions of AP International Baccalaureate Programs“The Legend of AP”

Starring: The College Board

Admission to prestigious colleges universities
Admission to Prestigious International Baccalaureate ProgramsColleges/Universities

“This looks good on college applications and stuff. This is what gets you into college.”

Oleander High School


Students… International Baccalaureate Programs

  • Largely satisfied with their AP & IB classes in meeting their need for rigorous, challenging academics.

  • Know that they have to perform in a certain way or they will not be successful.

  • Don’t feel entitled to instruction geared toward their individual needs– don’t seem aware that there is any other way to learn at the secondary level

Because students buy into International Baccalaureate Programs“The Legend of AP & IB,” they do not question how courses are taught or what is taught.

Enjoy being with motivated students
Enjoy being with motivated students International Baccalaureate Programs…

  • Noted that their experiences in non-AP or non IB courses was frustrating mixture of lack of challenge, being surrounded by students who did not want to learn (and were not being motivated to do so)

    “ (I) appreciate not being bothered with classmates that didn’t want to be there.”


International Baccalaureate ProgramsIf a student chooses to be in AP classes it is supposed to be a college level course. So I found that most teachers try and gear it toward that level. You just have to get it. They won’t try and dumb it down.”

  • Don International Baccalaureate Programs’t consider whether there are alternative teaching and instructional techniques that would provide a better fit for individual interests and learning styles.

  • take responsibility for their lack of success– don’t blame rigidity of the system.

  • seem to equate exhaustion with being challenged and learning a lot.

  • believe that this is how college will be– so this type of instruction is fine.

International Baccalaureate ProgramsI’m not sure you can really say how you would like to mold it (the course) to fit you because you are trying to mold yourself to fit what a college is going to do to you.”

Conclusions corroborated by other research
Conclusions corroborated by other research International Baccalaureate Programs

  • High level of student satisfaction

    • Particularly when compared to non-accelerated school options

      • Identify satisfaction as “relief from boredom”

      • “ most challenging course offered in high school”

  • International Baccalaureate ProgramsI’d rather be in AP classes than regular classes. That is why I am in AP –because I don’t want to be regular classes. BOOORRRING!”

  • “The type of work you do in AP classes is more thinking, critical, and the regular classes is you just read questions, look for the answer in the book, and really don’t do much thinking.”

Other studies
Other studies…. International Baccalaureate Programs

  • Special bonds between students and between teachers and students

    • Characterized by Coca (2011) as creation of a family

  • Former IB Diploma Program students attributed strong academic skills in areas such as critical thinking and analytic writing as well as a strong content knowledge base to their IB

    • Exception in IB mathematics—particularly those who were choosing math-heavy programs in selective colleges

  • Conner (2010) concluded extended essay experience of the IB program had an additive impact (beyond IB course work)

Exam Emphasis on end of course exams

“You don’t stop for anything. I mean that’s a train going one way and it’s not stopping for anything.” (Student Interview, Azalea HS)


Exam emphasis
Exam emphasis on end of course exams

“Our teacher spent so much time worrying about whether or not we were going to meet the time limit for the exam that we skimmed over everything.” (Student Interview, Mill Valley HS)


Non academic perceptions
Non-academic perceptions on end of course exams

  • Pride in completing more challenging work

  • Feelings of similarity and identity with others in the classes

  • Special bonds with other students

  • Better treatment from teachers

  • Better overall classroom atmosphere

  • Report developing specific competencies and attitudes

Academic social and emotional disadvantages student perceptions
Academic, social and emotional on end of course exams disadvantages—Student perceptions

  • Extremely high levels of pressure to succeed

  • High levels of emotional stress and fatigue

  • IB students perceived

    • negative feelings between themselves and students not enrolled in the courses,

    • feelings of isolation from other students

    • negativity of stereotypes associated with IB students

  • They give you so much work, you don’t have time to do anything.

  • I can’t quite enjoy the materials when I’m like, am I going to remember this: How much homework do I have? Am I going to sleep tonight? And the answer is usually no.

  • I was told if you take IB, you have no social life…They [said] If you take IB you’re not going to have time to talk on the phone, you are going to miss your favorite TV shows. You are going to be stuck in a book all day. I thought it couldn’t be that bad… But a lot of it is true.

Impact on college performance
Impact on College Performance anything.

  • These studies have ranged from simple correlational studies to regression analyses and have been conducted on both local (using students from one school or college/university) and national samples

Criticisms of early research
Criticisms of Early Research anything.

  • The methodology used in conducting the studies makes it difficult to determine how often and under what circumstances there is a positive advantage for AP students….

    • National Research Council

Subsequent research
Subsequent Research anything.

  • Students who had received AP credit earned significantly higher grade point averages than non-AP students even when students were classified by their SAT scores

    • But very small effect size

  • Second study

    • Controlling for the effects of previous achievement, school and family characteristics-- both AP and dual enrollment are strongly associated with college access and degree attainment

  • H anything.igher mean performance on AP exams was related to better performance in first-year courses in those disciplines


  • Number of exams taken by a student in a given discipline was only related to subsequent performance in that discipline in a limited number of areas.

  • Klopfenstein and Thomas, (2010) conclude, “there is no evidence from methodologically rigorous studies that AP experience causes students to be successful in college” (p. 170). A further concern is the lack of attention in any of the studies to “unobservable characteristics such as motivation and education aspirations” (p. 171).

  • Schools with higher percentages of students enrolled in AP courses but with low percentages passing AP exams did not have higher percentages of students graduating from college

  • ,AP examinees in natural science, English, and social science whose mean exam grade was a “1” earned first-year grade point averages lower than comparable non-AP students

Research on ib outcomes
Research on IB Outcomes perform well on the AP exam” (Sadler, 2010).

  • Criticisms parallel those of early AP research

    • Failure to account for how self-selection might affect college outcomes

    • Pre-existing unmeasured student characteristics such as motivation

    • Failure to examine those who do not complete courses, take IB exams, or complete IB programs

In sum the elements of fit of ap and ib
In sum—the elements of perform well on the AP exam” (Sadler, 2010).“fit” of AP and IB

  • AP and IB classes are perceived by many students and teachers as providing high-level challenge appropriate for gifted learners.

  • AP and IB classes are generally the most challenging classes offered in high schools.

  • Teachers are perceived to be of high quality-dedicated, hardworking, skilled and knowledgeable and learning environment more supportive

    • Teachers perceived as respective and accepting

      “They talk to you like you are old already and know what is going on.”

But there is a lack of fit in some ways
But there is a lack of fit in some ways: perform well on the AP exam” (Sadler, 2010).

  • The rigidity of the programs (at least as perceived by the teachers) does not allow teachers to feel comfortable accommodating a broad range of learners.

  • Students are expected to come to AP and IB courses with the skills/attitudes necessary for success in the programs– not to develop them once they’re in.

  • Unique students meet with resistance and cognitive dissonance

BUT… perform well on the AP exam” (Sadler, 2010).

What about the students who don’t make it in AP and IB classes?

Not all students find ap or ib a good fit
Not all students find AP or IB a good fit perform well on the AP exam” (Sadler, 2010).

  • students without mastery of requisite skills (good study habits, motivation, writing skills)

  • students who “learn differently”

  • students who question the system

  • students who don’t fit the “AP mold”

Lack of prerequisite skills
Lack of prerequisite skills perform well on the AP exam” (Sadler, 2010).

“You have all these summer assignments to do. For English class, you have to read 2 books and do 10 note cards on them and pick out significant lines. We didn‘tdo that kind of stuff at my school, so I had no idea what I was talking about. I failed these note cards that I had no instruction on how to do. That’s like walking into traffic blindfolded. You just don’t know what you’re doing, and there’s no reason that you should have to do something that you’ve never had experience with or were exposed to.” (Student Interview, Marshall HS)


Students who learn differently
Students who learn differently perform well on the AP exam” (Sadler, 2010).

  • “I realized that the program wasn’t for me. I have a way of learning and a way of studying that does not correlate well with the AP program… this isn’t a better education; this is busy work. What’s the point?” (Student Interview, Swingback HS)


  • perform well on the AP exam” (Sadler, 2010).If you are intelligent in a way that is more creative energy than being able to sit down and accept that geometry is geometry and you have to know it even though you don’t plan to use it, then IB classes are probably not for you. If you question these things, then you’re not going to do as well. That was my problem. I wanted to know why.”


  • perform well on the AP exam” (Sadler, 2010). I felt like I was constricted to the one way they want everything done. They wanted you to write the papers like this, they wanted you to answer the essays like this. This is what you’re supposed to do on the project. I felt like I was in jail. And if I didn’t, of course, I would fail or get points taken off.”


Homogeneity of students in classes often leads to lack of fit
Homogeneity of students in classes often leads to lack of fit

Largely homogeneous group…“Yeah, I don’t like the attitudes of the people. You feel like they are intellectual Aryans. That’s one thing I don’t like about it. …I’m black, which is, you know, not hard to see. I’m in these classes which are, what, ten percent black. In government we got into this discussion about the Ku Klux Klan, and they’re like, “Why do you think it’s so bad?”...

What works for the students who don t fit because of they are not as well prepared

Tentative themes from schools experiencing success
Tentative Themes from Schools fitExperiencing Success

  • Peer group

  • Faculty united and supportive of each other

  • Faculty share goal of increasing participation of under-served populations

  • Teachers able to adjust goals for students (building skills, not test performance)

  • Scaffolding for success

  • Supportive adults

  • Importance of learning the “unspokens”

8.Genuine concern for students and their progress, a general attitude, which confirmed by actions

9. Maintaining high academic standards but recognizing that minority students may require more and different kinds of support

10. Adopting strategies to nurture achievement such as chasing kids down at lunchtime, not giving up on them, having very strict policies

Other factors
Other factors attitude, which confirmed by actions

  • Extra study hall periods

  • Summer course

  • Engaging in culturally responsive teaching practices where possible

  • Appreciate that their students’ intellectual grasp of material may substantially exceed substantially exceed their communication skills.

Preliminary recommendations
Preliminary Recommendations experiences such as internships at nearby research institutions.

Making it about the student and learning
MAKING IT ABOUT THE STUDENT AND LEARNING experiences such as internships at nearby research institutions.

Not enough that learning environments just better than the boredom of regular classes
Not enough that learning environments just experiences such as internships at nearby research institutions. “better than the boredom of regular classes”

  • Move emphasis from “acquisition” of content, credits, credentials, points on college admissions applications to one of understanding, wrestling with ideas, and intellectual growth

  • Refocus goals of AP and IB courses from high exam performance to engagement, joy and growth from experiencing genuine challenge and meaningful learning, developing student interest in pursuing further understanding in one more disciplines, increased appreciation of complexities of thinking and logic, new career possibilities, deeper love of learning

Preliminary recommendations1
Preliminary Recommendations experiences such as internships at nearby research institutions.

  • Reexamine purpose of AP courses– which is more important: receiving college credit, or experiencing genuine, appropriate challenge?

  • Build a more balanced and diverse program for gifted secondary students that extends beyond AP and offers a broad array of services

Preliminary recommendations cont d
Preliminary Recommendations, cont’ experiences such as internships at nearby research institutions. d

  • Understand that AP courses were originally designed for a specific population of students not reflective of everyone who is taking them today

  • As a result, we need to teach AP courses with the needs of the students in our classrooms in mind

  • Recognize that “modifying” does not equal “dumbing down”

Provide AP teachers with more consistent and comprehensive training—requiring both subject area expertise and expertise in working with multiple subpopulations of high potential students-not just those who come signed, sealed and delivered as gifted

Make achieving equity within ap and ib course a priority equity in performance not just enrollment
Make achieving equity within AP and IB course a priority—equity in performance not just enrollment

If minority and low-income students are to be successful ---

  • Instruction must become more responsive to a variety of student needs and backgrounds

  • Develop greater understanding of diverse manifestations of high potential

  • Institute programs that will deal with issues of fixed vs. malleable ability and stress importance of effort over ability

Key resources
KEY RESOURCES priority—equity in performance not just enrollment

  • Callahan, C.M., & Hertberg-Davis, H. (in press). Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate Programs. In J. A. Plucker & C. M. Callahan (Eds.), Critical issues in gifted education: What the research says (2nd ed.). Waco, TX: Prufrock Press..

  • National Research Council. (2002). Learning and understanding: Improving advanced study of mathematics and science in us high schools. In J. P. Gollub, M. W. Bertenthal, J. B. Labov & P. C. Curtis (Eds.). Washington, DC: National Academy Press.

  • Sadler, P.M., Sonnert, G., Tai, R., & Klopfenstein, K. (Eds.) (2010). AP: A critical examination of the Advanced Placement Program. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.