Advanced Placement and American education: A Foucauldian analysis of the Advanced Placement Program of the college board

Jon Rehm, Florida International University


Advanced Placement is a series of courses and tests designed to determine mastery over introductory college material. It has become part of the American educational system. The changing conception of AP was examined using critical theory to determine what led to a view of continual success. The study utilized David Armstrong's variation of Michel Foucault's critical theory to construct an analytical framework. Black and Ubbes' data gathering techniques and Braun and Clark's data analysis were utilized as the analytical framework. Data included 1135 documents: 641 journal articles, 421 newspaper articles and 82 government documents. The study revealed three historical ruptures correlated to three themes containing subthemes. The first rupture was the Sputnik launch in 1958. Its correlated theme was AP leading to school reform with subthemes of AP as reform for able students and AP's gaining of acceptance from secondary schools and higher education. The second rupture was the Nation at Risk report published in 1983. Its correlated theme was AP's shift in emphasis from the exam to the course with the subthemes of AP as a course, a shift in AP's target population, using AP courses to promote equity, and AP courses modifying curricula. The passage of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 was the third rupture. Its correlated theme was AP as a means to narrow the achievement gap with the subthemes of AP as a college preparatory program and the shifting of AP to an open access program. The themes revealed a perception that progressively integrated the program into American education. The AP program changed emphasis from tests to curriculum, and is seen as the nation's premier academic program to promote reform and prepare students for college. It has become a major source of income for the College Board. In effect, AP has become an agent of privatization, spurring other private entities into competition for government funding. The change and growth of the program over the past 57 years resulted in a deep integration into American education. As such the program remains an intrinsic part of the system and continues to evolve within American education.

Subject Area

Curriculum development

Recommended Citation

Rehm, Jon, "Advanced Placement and American education: A Foucauldian analysis of the Advanced Placement Program of the college board" (2014). ProQuest ETD Collection for FIU. AAI3644799.