ITP | Advanced Placement Gatekeeping and Racialized Tracking

December 10, 2021, Noon-1:30 pm Central Time

259 Educational Sciences

Noah Hirschl

ITP Fellow

Racialized tracking is central to sociological explanations for racially stratified educational outcomes. However, school officials’ decision making is of debated importance for explaining racialized tracking. We contribute to this literature by examining the effects of schools’ enrollment policies for Advanced Placement (AP) courses. Using a unique combination of school survey data and administrative data from Wisconsin, we estimate plausibly causal effects of two competing school policies: allowing students complete discretion in AP enrollment, or alternatively, allowing school officials to enforce selection criteria, which we call gatekeeping. We find that gatekeeping has racially disproportionate effects on AP participation. While differences in prior achievement partially explain the especially large negative effects among students of color, gatekeeping produces racial disparities even among students with similar prior achievement. We further find that AP gatekeeping has longer-run effects, discouraging Black students from attending four-year colleges, particularly highly selective institutions.