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Millions of high school students who take an Advanced Placement (AP) course in one of over 30 subjects can earn college credit by performing well on the corresponding AP exam. Using data from four metro-Atlanta public school districts, we find that 15 percent of students’ AP courses do not result in an AP exam. We estimate that up to 32 percent of the AP courses that do not result in an AP exam would result in a score of 3 or higher, which generally commands college credit at colleges and universities across the United States. We then examine disparities in AP exam-taking rates and have three main takeaways. First, we find evidence consistent with the positive impact of school district exam subsidies on AP exam-taking rates. In fact, students on free and reduced-price lunch (FRL) in the districts that provide a higher subsidy to FRL students than non-FRL students are more likely to take an AP exam than their non-FRL counterparts, after controlling for demographic and academic covariates. Second, Black students are 4 percentage points less likely to take an AP exam than their White peers, even among those with the same academic credentials and from the same high school. Third, we find no evidence that a female student paired with a female AP course teacher takes the AP exam at a higher rate as compared to being paired with a male teacher, even in courses that are underrepresented by females.
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Fazlul, Ishtiaque; Jones, Todd R.; and Smith, Jonathan, "College Credit on the Table? Advanced Placement Course and Exam Taking" (2020). GPL Working Papers. 3.
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