- The Education Commission for the States has noted in a new policy analysis on AP classes that Arkansas is leading the way with a comprehensive state policy that enhances the participation, engagement and success of traditionally excluded student populations.
- The report defines 11 policy components in the areas of access, support, quality assurance and credit transfer that are important to comprehensive state policy.
- In Arkansas, 37 different AP courses are available as of April 2016, and they fall within six content areas; a new class, AP Computer Science, will become available in the fall for academic year 2016-2017.
With $28.4 million in federal grants earmarked for individual states to boost access to Advanced Placement exams in 2015, Arkansasan policies could provide insight into how best to spend money and promote success with AP course incorporation. The federal dollars are supposed to help offset the cost of exam fees for low-income students, therefore making the courses more accessible.
"With the adoption of the “Arkansas Advanced Placement Incentive Program Act of 1995,” expanded by 2005 legislation to become the “Arkansas Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate Diploma Incentive Program Act of 1995,” Arkansas positioned itself as the first state in the nation to have a comprehensive AP policy," the new ECS report states. That led to a stunning 46% of Arkansas high school graduates leaving high school after taking at least one AP class. The state requires all districts offer at least four AP classes. Students can also pay for the classes on a sliding scale. Arkansas also mandates reporting on the number and demographics of students taking the exams each year.
Inclusivity matters. A widespread "race gap" can still be found in Advanced Placement classes, unrelated to actual coursework offerings. Bias and a lack of readiness play a role, Education Week has reported, and two studies from October 2015 found differences in how students of different races or economic backgrounds perform within the same school can contribute more to the achievement gap than differences between schools.
A February 2016 report from the right-leaning DC think-tank the American Enterprise Institute said Advanced Placement courses have maintained their rigor despite two decades of popularity growth among students. Student participation has soared from 330,000 students in 1990 to 2.2 million in 2013.