There has been some argument lately about the value of AP courses. The debate was spurred by John Tierney, a college professor and high school teacher who wrote in the Atlantic that AP courses are a fraud.
What are AP courses? They are a product of the College Board’s Advance Placement programs, which offer specialized courses at accelerated levels for students who qualify. Students receive high school credits for the course or courses they take in familiar high school subject areas from calculus to literature; and if students take the AP exam at the end of the course and pass with at least a 5 out of 7, they can receive college credit for that course.
AP classes are taken by students for several reasons. They want to strengthen their high school transcript, show their aspiration for leaning, and attempt to get college credits early to reduce their time and costs once they enter college.
Professor Tierney has raised several points about the value of AP courses, to which the College Board has responded.
Point 1: AP classes do not compare to actual college courses in quality.
The other side to that argument is that the College Board has college professors review their programs annually for quality control. The College Board also argues that AP classes allow for more depth in examination of course subjects, encourage critical thinking, and help students prepare for honest and logical argument.
Point 2: Because many students can self select into an AP class, the lesser prepared students drag others down.
The College Board’s response is that, indeed, there is a more diverse population of students in AP course today, which is all the better to help raise aspirations and improve learning skills.
Point 3: AP courses are an extra expense for high schools. The costs come into play when teachers have fewer regular students because of teaching AP, and AP takes up classroom space. There are also some professional development costs for teachers who teach AP as well as costs of classroom materials. Finally, students must pay $89.00 to take an AP exam.
The College Board makes clear that they pay the costs of registering high schools for their program, subsidize professional development, and grant reduction waivers in cost for the AP exam where there is need. They also reinvest left over funds back into educational programs.
Point 4: AP seems to be reserved for white, upper class students.
The College Board agrees on this point. Less than half the African America, Native America, and Hispanic students are enrolled in AP classes.
So, look at this information critically, consider the arguments, and decide if you should take an AP class.