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Classroom Context: AP Access and Coursetaking

In 2010, the average NAEP U.S. history score for twelfth-graders who reported that they were either currently enrolled in or had taken an Advanced Placement (AP) course in U.S. history was 304, which was higher than the score of 284 for students who reported not taking the course. Results from the 2009 NAEP High School Transcript Study (HSTS) provide information on the extent to which students have access to an AP U.S. history course in their school and the proportion of students who complete the course. As part of the HSTS, transcripts from a representative sample of America’s public and private high school graduates are collected and analyzed to provide information about recent high school graduates. For nearly two decades, the study has informed the public about the type of courses graduates take, the number of credits they earn, and the grade point averages they receive. Results from the 2009 HSTS are based on a nationally representative sample of around 38,000 transcripts that represents approximately 3 million high school graduates from the “Class of 2009.”

For this analysis, graduates were considered to have access to an AP U.S. history course if at least one student in the school took the course or the course was listed in the school catalogue or course list. Differences in students’ access may be attributed to a number of factors, such as school enrollment.


From 1990 to 2009, the percentage of graduates who had access to an AP U.S. history course increased from 51 percent to 80 percent. These percentages also increased for Black graduates (50 percent to 83 percent), Hispanic graduates (54 percent to 91 percent), White graduates (49 percent to 75 percent), and Asian/Pacific Islander graduates (78 percent to 94 percent).

Percentage of high school graduates who had access to an Advanced Placement (AP) course in U.S. history, by race/ethnicity: 1990 and 2009.

* Significantly different (p < .05) from 2009.
NOTE: Black includes African American, Hispanic includes Latino, and Pacific Islander includes Native Hawaiian. Race categories exclude Hispanic origin. Results are not shown separately for students whose race/ethnicity was American Indian/Alaska Native or unclassified.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Statistics, High School Transcript Study (HSTS), 1990 and 2009.

See complete data (14KB XLS). Browse questionnaires for the NAEP assessments.