Date of Award

Spring 5-20-2019

Degree Type


Degree Name

Executive Ed.D. in Education Leadership Management and Policy


Education Leadership, Management and Policy


Daniel Gutmore, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Christopher Tienken, Ed.D.

Committee Member

Jeffrey Graber, Ed.D.


Advanced Placement, Open Access, Equity, Achievement, Ability Grouping, Tracking


Preparing students for higher education is a primary aim of K-12 education. However, some high school graduates do not meet college readiness benchmarks and must take remedial noncredit courses in college (Adams, 2013; Butrymowicz, 2017). One of the strongest predictors of student success in college is rich and rigorous high school curriculum (Adelman, 1999; Adelman, 2006). The Advanced Placement (AP) program offers high school students college-level courses that can earn them college credits from participating institutions (Kolluri, 2018; Rothschild, 1999). College Board research overwhelmingly has indicated that the AP program is beneficial for students (Casserly, 1986; Dodd et al., 2002; Eimers & Mullen, 2003; Hargrove et al., 2008; Santoli, 2002; Warne, 2017). Independent research has not been as prevalent or as positive about the impact of the AP program (Geiser & Santelices, 2004; Klopfenstein & Thomas, 2009; Sadler & Tai, 2007). However, benefits are only available to high school students who have access to AP courses. The College Board’s 2002 Equity Policy Statement emphasizes expanding the AP program and removing barriers to students’ access to AP courses (College Board, 2002).

This study sought to examine the influence of an open access policy on AP achievement within a regional public high school district in central New Jersey. Prior to the 2012–2013 school year, students in this district were required to meet enrollment criteria to enroll in an AP course. These criteria included a minimum grade of A- in a regular course or a minimum grade of B- in an honors course in the previous year course in that subject area. In September of 2012, the district removed the enrollment criteria as a barrier to AP enrollment. This study analyzed the AP exam scores of students in six high schools in a regional high school district for AP Calculus AB, AP English Language and Composition, AP Physics 1, and AP United States History. The dependent variables in this study are student scores on AP exams. The independent variables are the designation of students as “traditional” or “nontraditional” students as defined by the qualifying criteria. The control variables are grade point average (GPA), PSAT/NMSQT score, socioeconomic status (SES), and prior AP experience. Findings indicate that traditional students scored statistically significantly higher on the AP Calculus, AP English Language and Composition, and AP United States History exams but not on the AP Physics 1 exam. However, the designation of student type was not a statistically significant predictor of AP exam performance when controlling for GPA, PSAT/NMSQT score, SES, and prior AP experience.