Advancement for all

Ordinary students willing to work hard can succeed in Advanced Placement classes, many educators now believe. Principals are encouraging more students to tackle the collegel-level classes, reports Education Week.

The College Board, which sponsors the AP courses, has itself been trying to recast the program as being within reach of any student willing to do the work, regardless of academic standing. The new direction has drawn praise from many observers, who say the trend could challenge students to stretch their academic pursuits and bridge the academic gap between lower-achieving black and Hispanic students — who traditionally have been underrepresented in the program — and their white and Asian-American classmates.

But the shift in thinking has also raised concerns that more students will struggle to meet the standards and fail, and that ultimately, the quality of the program will be watered down to prevent that from happening.

The key is the AP exam, which determines whether students qualify for college credit. As long as students are working to pass a challenging exam — one not written or graded by their own teacher — the program will maintain its standards.

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  1. Yep – outside standards. The growth of AP courses may eventually drive down the standards (the people who grade the things are, by and large, other high school teachers), but for now it may be the best we can do.

    I think it also explains the expansion (MUCH more limited, but interesting) of International Baccalaureate programs.

  2. Left in Texas says:

    One of the great tragedies of schools in low-income neighborhoods is that they don’t offer these courses, or very limited selections. Kids have to work their butts off in most of them, and learn a tremendous amount doing it.

  3. Oddly enough in high school I took a ton of ap courses because this meant I actually had less homework. I did fine in the courses and because they were high level, no busy work.

  4. To correct Michael’s comment –

    AP courses will never drive down the standards; they are designed to uphold them. AP exams are created by a team of both high school and college educators and graded by an equitable number of each in the most fair method I have ever seen.

    I have taught AP Calculus for over 10 years and am very impressed with the program. I do believe that it has been an exclusivity club for way too long – I think that more kids should be offered the opportunity to take these courses. And as far as standards go – a majority of colleges look more at the number of AP courses a student takes than the student’s SAT score or high school GPA. Even if the student doesn’t take the exam, colleges think that students exposed to AP level work in high school have a much better chance at success in college.

  5. I could not agree more. Many years ago I had a friend who was basically an average student but who was willing to put in the effort to make the grade. He was not so single threaded that he had no other interests, however. When he got into college he made a solid B+ average and is not a college professor and a successful one. The key for him was his motivation and his strong will to achieve. He realized his limits and decided to push them as far as he could. The result redounded to his benefit and that of his students. He is a very strong role model to them for what is possible.

    I was always the top of the class without even trying but I could not be more proud of what my friend proved was possible. He ended up achieving more than I did by a long stretch.