Investigating the relationship between the use of advanced placement credit and performance in subsequent college courses
thesisposted on 07.05.2021, 19:00 by Sheila F Hurt
Research on the Advanced Placement (AP) program generally shows that students scoring 4s and 5s on AP exams outperform their non-AP peers in subsequent college courses. However, faculty often advise students with AP credit to repeat prerequisite courses in college before attempting advanced coursework, and there are few studies that provide empirical evidence about outcomes related to the use of AP credit. I compared grades of 26,843 students in 34 STEM courses using two-level cross-sectional multilevel modeling and found that students with AP credit in biology, calculus, chemistry, or physics significantly outperformed non-AP students after controlling for high school GPA and SAT Math scores, whether they used their AP credit to fulfill course pre-requisites or not. Additionally, I investigated outcomes of 10,152 students who had earned AP credit for course pre-requisites, depending on whether or not they chose to use their AP credit or repeat it at the college level prior to taking subsequent courses. I found that contextual factors, such as the specific target course and the student’s home college, were highly influential in determining the propensity to use AP credit. Measures of prior academic achievement also influenced the propensity to use AP credit, but most demographic factors did not. After applying propensity weights, I found no causal effect of using AP credit on subsequent course grades. The use of two-level cross-sectional multilevel modeling showed that the effect of using AP credit on subsequent course grades varied significantly across courses. The results of this study show that students who use AP credit to move directly into subsequent college STEM courses do not earn lower grades in those courses as a result of their decision to use AP credit.