THE EFFECT OF STATE LAWS MANDATING ADVANCED PLACEMENT PROGRAMS IN PUBLIC HIGH SCHOOLS ON EDUCATIONAL OUTCOMES: EVIDENCE FROM ARKANSAS
Arce-Trigatti, Maria Paula
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This dissertation consists of two essays on the impact of state-mandated Advanced Placement (AP) programs in public high schools on student outcomes. In the first essay, I examine the effects of a 2004 state-mandate in Arkansas on student achievement (measured by test scores), high school graduation and dropout rates, and student composition within a school. In the second essay, using the same policy, I study the effects of the mandate on college enrollment measures, as well as high school completion. The first essay examines the effect of a state mandate to offer Advanced Placement (AP) programs at all public high schools on student outcomes. Requiring schools to offer a program they may otherwise not have offered could produce unintended consequences through the shifting of resources or re-sorting among students. To investigate these possibilities, I take advantage of a 2004 state-wide mandate to offer AP programs in Arkansas and use a difference-in-differences estimation strategy to identify the effects of the policy on graduation and attendance rates, student achievement measures, and student composition within a school. Results suggest that on average, the 4-year graduation rate increases by 3.3 percentage points and the dropout rate increases by nearly one percentage point at schools required to comply with the mandate. I find no effect on student achievement (measured by end-of-course exams and ACT scores) attributable to the mandate, however. Additionally, the share of students choosing to attend an out-of-district school increases by almost two percentage points and the percentage of students who qualify for free or reduced price lunch decreases by more than three percentage points, which suggests that the policy may have important sorting effects. In the second essay, I build on the work from the previous chapter of this thesis by examining the impact of state-mandated Advanced Placement (AP) programs on college enrollment and high school graduation rates. By extending the analysis to college-going, we can gain a better understanding of how increased rigor in the high school curriculum can affect college matriculation, which itself has important implications for later labor market outcomes. Furthermore, corroborating the estimates on high school completion from the previous work will contribute to the scant existing literature on the causal impact of AP program participation. I use a triple differences estimation strategy that exploits exogenous variation in AP program exposure generated by the 2004 mandate in Arkansas to identify the causal impact of the reform on student outcomes. While robust standard errors suggest the results are statistically insignificant, the point estimates are indicative of positive impacts on the rate of high school completion for nearly all gender and racial sub-groups of students analyzed, and mixed impacts on measures of college attendance by race and gender. I find positive impacts on ever having enrolled in college for females (negative for males) and positive impacts on currently enrolled in college for non-Hispanic white students (negative for non-Hispanic black students).