Restricting AP to A or B+ students makes no sense, argues Mathews, because research shows “average students who struggled in an AP course, and got one of the lower scores on the test—even a 2, the equivalent of a college D—did better in college than similar students who did not take AP.”
Fordham’s study suggests that, “AP is welcoming more students, but at the same time giving them the same challenging experience that students got when only the top brains were allowed to enroll.”
Most teachers surveyed denied that “administrators are pushing more unqualified minority or low-income students into AP courses, just to make the classes look more diverse.”
Sixty five percent of teachers say the number of students taking AP at their school has grown. Despite that growth, 55 percent say the quality of AP students in terms of their aptitude and capacity to do the work has improved or stayed the same, 86 percent say the level of difficulty and complexity of the material covered in the AP courses they teach has increased or stayed the same and 69 percent say the standards for grading AP exams have not been watered down. Also, sham AP courses seem to be on the way out. Seventy percent of teachers said their schools either required or strongly urged AP students to take the AP exams.
However, most AP teachers said “no” to the question: Is AP good for nearly everybody?
Question 12 asks which is closer to their own view: “The more students taking AP courses the better–even when they do poorly in the course, they benefit from the challenge and experience” or “Only students who can handle the material should take AP courses–otherwise it’s not fair to them, their classmates, their teachers, and the quality of the program.” Thirty eight percent chose the first option, the one favored by the AP teachers who have most influenced me. But 52 percent chose the second option. Also, 63 percent of the teachers said it would improve their AP programs if they did more screening to make sure students were ready.
Screening typically looks at past grades but ignores motivation and maturity, Mathews writes.