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Low-income DP graduates in the US experience improved learning outcomes

We’ve just published interim findings from a longer-term study, Study of IB students’ high school and post-secondary experiences: US public schools serving students from low-income households.

Researchers examined the high school and postsecondary experiences of IB students from US public schools serving students from low-income households with little or no history of college-going. Click on the tabs below to find out more.


The mixed methods study is being conducted at three large high schools in California.

Researchers surveyed 1,063 current students, interviewed 36 current IB students, and interviewed 8 IB alumni enrolled in college.

Comparison groups

  • Non-IB students: not enrolled in an IB programme (reference group)
  • Full DP students: students who planned to complete the full Diploma Programme (DP) – all courses, requirements, exams
  • Partial DP students: students who were taking DP courses and planned to take DP exams
  • Other DP students: students who were enrolled in some DP courses but did not plan to take DP exams

Findings related to IB students

The analysis found statistically significant differences in favour of IB students in 7/8 outcome variables in this study. For example:

  • Classroom rigor: Both full DP and partial DP students were more likely to perceive their classrooms as rigorous compared to non-IB students.
  • School engagement: Students taking DP courses tended to participate in more extracurricular activities than non-IB students.
  • College aspirations: IB students tended to have higher educational attainment goals than their non-IB peers.

  • Teachers: IB students appreciated that their teachers had high expectations of them, were willing to spend time outside of the school day to provide help and worked hard to motivate students.
  • Extra-curricular activities: DP students participated in a wide variety of activities, which provided students with additional support structures, positive self-worth, and improved academics.

Findings related to IB alumni enrolled in college

  • Transition to college: All students felt the rigor and challenge of the DP had helped them to transition smoothly to college.
  • Alumni reported having strong study skills.
  • Alumni demonstrated positive academic self-concept, self-efficacy, and resilience.
  • College credit: Due to the college credit they earned through the DP, students reported being placed into higher-level courses, planning to take additional courses related to their major or to study abroad.

  • Thomas Gething

    Thank you for sharing this research. Anecdotally, much of this confirms with what I hear from our DP students, both full and partial diploma students.

    I would like to know more about how we can balance the positive outcomes of the research with a careful eye on not mistaking correlation for causation. It would be interesting to know, for example, if there was a comparative study with schools that offer AP instead of the DP. I’d also be interested to know more about what extra-curricular activities were popular with DP students e.g. physical, arts-based, social action, and whether this trend was in part due to active promotion by the schools as part of an overall student welfare program. Is this possible?

  • Emily VanderKamp

    Thanks @thomasgething:disqus for your thoughts and comments! You’re definitely right that the study doesn’t imply causality. Since this is an interim report, we don’t have a whole lot of details about the types of extracurricular activities the students engaged in. The researchers highlighted AVID, clubs and basketball in their specific examples. Unfortunately, I’m not aware of a similar study examining AP students (although that doesn’t necessarily mean it doesn’t exist). Thanks again for your interest. It will be great once the final study is complete and we have the full results. We’ll definitely keep the community posted! -Emily VanderKamp, Research Communications Manager

  • Thomas Gething

    Hi Emily, thank you for taking the time to reply. I look forward to see the final study. One question, based on my ignorance (!) – what is AVID?

  • Emily VanderKamp

    Hi @thomasgething:disqus, no worries, I had to look it up as well. 🙂 Here’s what they say on their website: “AVID trains educators to use proven practices in order to prepare students for success in high school, college, and a career, especially students traditionally underrepresented in higher education”. More info on their website: