It’s that time of the year again. High school students across the nation are taking their Advanced Placement Tests so they can receive college credits. Indeed, to save college tuition is advantageous; however, sometimes not enrolling in general education classes, such as Composition 101, is disadvantageous for some students.
“A few of the nation’s top private and public high schools have dropped the AP courses, on the belief that their teachers created better courses than the AP. [Click here and here for archives of two New York Times articles].
“A reader responded to an earlier post about the Tucson BASIS charter schools by questioning the value of AP courses and tests: ‘Here is the essence of what Tim Steller wrote about BASIS-Tuscon: ‘the Basis schools require students to take eight AP courses before graduation, take six AP tests and pass at least one…That naturally helps Basis place high in the U.S. News rankings…’ Steller adds this important point in his article about BASIS, made by an education consultant: ‘AP has pulled the wool over people’s eyes across the nation…’
“‘Actually, it’s the College Board that has ‘pulled the wool over people’s eyes.’ About AP, to be sure. But also about the SAT and PSAT, and Accuplacer, the placement test used by more than 60 percent of community colleges. They’re all mostly worthless, more hype than reality…
“A 2002 National Research Council study of AP courses and tests found them to be a ‘mile wide and an inch deep’ and inconsistent with research-based principles of learning. A 2004 study by Geiser and Santelices found that ‘the best predictor of both first- and second-year college grades’ is un-weighted high school grade point average, and a high school grade point average ‘weighted with a full bonus point for AP…is invariably the worst predictor of college performance.’
“A 2005 study (Klopfenstein and Thomas) found AP students ‘…generally no more likely than non-AP students to return to school for a second year or to have higher first semester grades.’ Moreover, the authors wrote that ‘close inspection of the [College Board] studies cited reveals that the existing evidence regarding the benefits of AP experience is questionable,’ and ‘AP courses are not a necessary component of a rigorous curriculum.’
“A 2006 MIT faculty report noted ‘there is a growing body of research that students who earn top AP scores and place out of institute introductory courses end up having ‘difficulty’ when taking the next course.’
“Two years prior, Harvard ‘conducted a study that found students who are allowed to skip introductory courses because they have passed a supposedly equivalent AP course do worse in subsequent courses than students who took the introductory courses at Harvard’ (Seebach, 2004)…
“Students know that AP is far more about gaming the college acceptance process than it is learning…
“The 2010 book ‘AP: A Critical Examination’ noted that ‘Students see AP courses on their transcripts as the ticket ensuring entry into the college of their choice,’ yet, ‘there is a shortage of evidence about the efficacy, cost, and value of these programs.’ And this: AP has become ‘the juggernaut of American high school education,’ but ‘the research evidence on its value is minimal.’
“As [Saul] Geiser* (2007) notes, ‘systematic differences in student motivation, academic preparation, family background and high-school quality account for much of the observed difference in college outcomes between AP and non-AP students...’
“Klopfenstein and Thomas (2010) find that when these demographic characteristics are controlled for, the claims made for AP disappear. Yet, the myths –– especially about AP, the SAT and PSAT –– endure.
“Meanwhile, the College Board is promoting the Common Core and says it has ‘aligned’ (cough, wink) its products with it. And people believe it. Stopping corporate-style ‘reform and the Common Core is easier said than done. Parents, students and educators are going to have to remove the wool from over their eyes. And that means abandoning blind belief in the College Board and the products it peddles.’”
Quotations are from What Is the Value of AP Courses and Tests? (Diane Ravitch's Blog)