Only about half of the nation’s rural school districts have students enrolled in college-level Advanced Placement courses, and those students have lower AP success rates than their non-rural peers, according to a report by researchers at the University of New Hampshire.
The researchers found that AP enrollment rates in rural districts lags the rate in suburban, town, and urban school districts. More than 97 percent of urban school districts, 80 percent of school districts located in towns, and about 95 percent of suburban school districts have students enrolled in AP courses. The report also found discrepancies amongst rural school districts, with small remote districts less likely to offer AP classes than larger rural districts close to urban areas.
“These findings have worrisome implications regarding equal access to educational opportunity, as some studies have documented the academic benefits of simply engaging in such rigorous coursework,” the researchers said in a University of New Hampshire press release. “Completing AP coursework may give students valuable experience, and college credit is often earned through success on end-of-year examinations.”
This topic has received more attention recently. A 2014 article by The Columbus Dispatch found that Ohio’s rural districts have on average fewer than 6.5 high-level courses, compared to an average of 26 in suburban districts. A recent story by the National Journal highlighted a program at the University of Iowa that aims to improve rural participation by offering free, online Advanced Placement classes. The program, which offers 12 AP classes, reaches about 430 students each year. In order to participate, schools must designate a staff member to oversee logistics and act as a mentor teacher for students who participate. Schools also must provide class time for students to work on their online courses.
Some states like Colorado have started offering incentives for rural schools to provide Advanced Placement courses. Under Colorado’s program, schools are eligible for extra funding for each student that completes an Advanced Placement course and exam.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Rural Education blog.