CPRE : Consortium for Policy Research in Education

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Meeting Paper

The Potential Role of the International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Programme in Improving Academic Preparation for College for All Students

An earlier version of this paper was presented at the Annual Meeting of the Association for the Study of Higher Education (ASHE) in Charlotte, North Carolina in November 2011.

Inadequate academic preparation is a primary barrier to college access and success particularly for students from historically underrepresented groups. Although critical to college enrollment, choice, and degree completion, academic preparation and achievement vary based on students’ demographic characteristics, with lower levels of academic readiness for students from lower- than higher-income families and Blacks and Hispanics than for Whites.  Two causes of inadequate academic preparation for college are a lack of rigorous courses in high school and a lack of curricular alignment between K-12 and higher education.

One approach to  increasing the availability of rigorous high school course offerings and aligning K-12 and higher education systems – and thus improving academic preparation for college – is for schools and school districts to offer high school students exposure to college-level courses.  Labeled ‘secondary-postsecondary learning options,’ ‘accelerated learning options,’ and ‘credit-based transition programs,’ these programs include International Baccalaureate (IB), Advanced Placement (AP), and dual enrollment. 

While suggesting the promise of IB Diploma Programmes for increasing academic preparation for college for underrepresented students, recent growth in IB programmes raises questions about whether this growth is reaching these groups, whether students from historically underrepresented groups are participating in available IB programs, and whether the academic preparation and supports provided by an IB Diploma Programme vary based on the characteristics of students attending the school. This paper addresses these issues using descriptive analyses of multiple sources of data.




Publication Date

November 2011