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2007 Spotlight

High School Coursetaking

Requirements and Offerings

Advanced Course Offerings

The number of advanced courses high school students take is limited by what is offered. This section examines the extent to which public schools offer college-level coursework to high school students, available as Advanced Placement (AP), International Baccalaureate (IB), and dual-credit courses, all of which are described below.7

AP courses and their end-of-course examinations are developed and administered by the College Board. Students who score a 3.0 or better (on a 5.0 point scale) may earn college credit or advanced standing in a college in the subject area in which the course/exam was taken. IB courses are defined as courses that make up a 2-year liberal arts curriculum that leads to an IB diploma and meets the requirements established by the IB program. Students taking these courses, typically in grades 11 and 12, must meet all requirements and pass IB examinations in each subject area in order to receive the IB diploma. In some schools, students who are not seeking an IB diploma are allowed to take individual IB courses. AP and IB postsecondary credit is given at the discretion of the colleges and therefore students receive this credit after they have applied and been accepted to a college. Dual-credit courses allow students to earn both high school and postsecondary credits for a single course, which is considered an actual college course. Thus, the dual credit earned is usually recorded on a college transcript from the postsecondary institution administering the course. The descriptions of college-level course offerings in this section were taken from a 2002–03 survey of a nationally representative sample of public high schools (Waits, Setzer, and Lewis 2005).

Overall, in 2002–03, some 71 percent of public high schools offered at least one dual-credit course, 67 percent offered AP courses, and 2 percent offered IB courses (see table SA-2). The larger the enrollment of a school, the more likely that school was to offer AP and/or dual-credit courses: 40 percent of small schools (those with an enrollment of less than 500) offered AP courses, compared with 82 percent of medium-sized schools (those with an enrollment of 500 to 1,199) and 97 percent of large schools (those with an enrollment of 1,200 or more) (see figure 2). Similarly, 63 percent of small schools offered courses for dual credit, compared with 75 percent of medium-sized schools and 82 percent of large schools.

Public schools located in rural areas were less likely to report offering AP courses (50 percent) than public schools in cities (77 percent), urban fringe areas (87 percent), and towns (72 percent) (see table SA-2). Dual-credit courses, in contrast, were less likely to be offered in public schools located in cities than in public schools located in towns or urban fringe areas (65 vs. 79 and 74 percent, respectively). Seventy percent of rural schools offered courses for dual credit.

Public schools with the lowest minority enrollment (those in which minority students made up less than 6 percent of the enrollment) were the least likely to offer AP courses when compared with schools with higher minority enrollments. Among public schools that offered dual credits, however, schools with the highest minority enrollment were the least likely to offer these courses when compared with schools with lower minority enrollments.

State standards and advanced course offerings provide a context for understanding student coursetaking patterns. The next section presents trends in the coursetaking patterns of high school graduates over more than two decades, from 1982 to 2004.


7Information on the content of the dual-credit coursework, and the extent to which it qualifies as advanced, was not collected as part of the Fast Response Survey System (FRSS). (back to text)

Figures and Tables

Figure 2: Percentage of public high schools that offered dual-credit courses, Advanced Placement (AP), and International Baccalaureate (IB), by school enrollment: 2002-03

Table SA-2: Number and percentage of public high schools that offered dual-credit, Advanced Placement (AP), and International Baccalaureate (IB) courses, by selected school characteristics: 2002-03

Table SSA-2: Standard errors for the number and percentage of public high schools that offered dual-credit, Advanced Placement (AP), and International Baccalaureate (IB) courses, by selected school characteristics: 2002-03

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National Center for Education Statistics - http://nces.ed.gov
U.S. Department of Education