NRC/GT Running Head

Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate Programs for Talented Students in American High Schools: A Focus on Science and Mathematics

Carolyn M. Callahan

The Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) Programs have become increasingly prominent service options for gifted and talented secondary students, and are often the primary option in many school systems. This review presents the general historical background, overriding philosophies, procedures, perceived advantages and disadvantages, and a discussion of the growth of the programs, as well as the research on the AP and IB Programs. There is an emphasis on the fit of AP and IB Programs for gifted students seeking advanced study in science and math. As a result of this review, recommendations for parents and educators are provided.

Reference:
Callahan, C. M. (2003). Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate programs for talented students in American high schools: A focus on science and mathematics (RM03176). Storrs, CT: The National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented, University of Connecticut.


NRC/GT Bar

Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate Programs for Talented Students in American High Schools: A Focus on Science and Mathematics
Carolyn M. Callahan

Conclusions

  1. Steadily increasing enrollment in Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate programs is a result of an increase in available courses, a lack of other rigorous and challenging options, government financial support, a national trend toward increased time to complete the baccalaureate degree, beliefs about advantages in the college admission process, the use of AB and IB programs as indicators of school quality, recommendations to gifted and talented learners, the quality of curriculum, the level of challenge, and the learning environment.
  2. There are equity concerns in AP and IB programs—preconceived notions of student success, financial environments of schools, teaching strategies, and gender inequalities are factors that could preclude opportunities for some students.
  3. The AP Program seems to fit with the idea that giftedness is characterized functionally rather than by test scores; however, the AP Program might not sufficiently nurture the creative productive gifted learner, particularly when the goals of course instruction focus on high-stakes exams.
  4. The structure of AP and IB programs may create pressure to cover material within a certain time frame (before the exam)—resulting in a tendency for teachers to ignore particular developmental stages and interest of students, and increased levels of stress.
  5. Given the documented over-extension of breadth of study incorporated into the AP Programs, the likely scenario may be for teachers to focus on "covering," through lecture, the vast content of the course syllabi rather than to provide opportunities for students to interact with the content as co-learners; whereas the IB cross-disciplinary requirements project are more structured to demand student interaction with each other.
  6. Possible disadvantages of AP programs are that they may leave students unprepared for upper-level college courses, fail to develop understanding of concepts and key ideas, fail to develop metacognitive skills, minimize student-centered activities, and discourage students from taking rigorous non-AP courses.