A study published this year in Psychological Science by April Bleske-Rechek and colleagues highlights the importance of Advanced Placement (AP) courses. Students who took AP courses in high school were much more likely to go on and obtain an advanced degree after graduating from college than similar students who did not take AP courses. This suggests that if we want students to make the most of their intellectual abilities, and if we want society to benefit from this intellectual capital, we need to provide these students with appropriate levels of challenge in their school coursework.
The following is from the abstract of the paper (with emphasis added) We evaluated the Advanced Placement (AP) program from the point of view of intellectually precocious youth and their subsequent educational-vocational outcomes, analyzing normative and idiographic longitudinal data collected across 30 years from 3,937 participants. Most took AP courses in high school, and those who did frequently nominated an AP course as their favorite. Students who took AP courses, compared with their intellectual peers who did not, appeared more satisfied with the intellectual caliber of their high school experience and, ultimately, achieved more. Overall, this special population placed a premium on intellectual challenge in high school and found the lack of such challenge distressing. These findings can inform contemporary educational policy debates regarding the AP program; they also have general implications for designing and evaluating educational interventions for students with special needs.