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Saturday, February 12, 2011

AP Gets Advanced Play in the News

The College Board published a report this week that highlighted the steady rise in Advanced Placement (AP) tests taken over the last decade (see http://chronicle.com/article/Number-of-AP-Test-Takers-Has/126313/?sid=pm&utm_source=pm&utm_medium=en).  You may also want to check out a related article that recently appeared in the Wall Street Journal (http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704858404576134142048372986.html?KEYWORDS=AP+exams).  The report was released with a coating of pride in the fact that, not only has participation doubled in the past decade, research indicates enrollment in AP courses helps to increase the likelihood that AP participants will go on to and graduate from college.  Also included in the report (although not necessarily highlighted) is the steady increase in lower scores.

AP courses have been the subject of much debate in recent years as some highly reputable prep schools and school districts have discarded them for what they feel are more sensible and equally challenging replacements.  Other schools have placed more value upon dual credit programs that allow high school students to complete college courses that also meet high school graduation requirements but without requiring an end-of-course (make-it-or-break-it, win-or-lose) exam. The major criticism of AP courses is that the curriculum, a mile wide and an inch deep, is covered in a sprint that lasts from September to May.  And the challenge AP courses present, critics argue, is like asking someone to memorize the New York City telephone book.

Is it time to reconsider this sprint and the amount of ground covered in the race?  Apparently, those schools that have opted out have made The College Board think twice about its program.  While more students may be participating in the AP Program, they may not be the students for whom the AP Program was originally designed.  So, now it is reconsidering its program in light of the criticism and is about to make revisions.  The New York Times recently published an article that addresses some of the issues as well as plans The College Board has in store in the coming months (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/09/education/edlife/09ap-t.html?pagewanted=all).

The College Board buckled under pressure several years ago when the California State University System was ready to abandon the SAT in favor of subject tests, arguing that the test was not an accurate measure of college readiness.  With California providing the most test-takers of any state in the country, The College Board was pretty much forced to listen.  And it did.  So, analogies were deleted, Algebra 2 questions were included, more reading passages were inserted, and a writing sample was required as well.  Of course, now it takes  about half a day to complete the test.

And now the AP Program is poised for change.  Is anyone about to start a "wave" in celebration of this?

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