In their zeal to send all students to college, some high schools are pushing struggling students into Advanced Placement classes, writes Michele Kerr, a high school algebra teacher, in a San Jose Mercury News op-ed. Unprepared students usually fail the AP exam and end up in remedial college classes. Why not teach K-12 skills in high school, so students can take college-level classes in college?
Those who advocate “AP for all” argue that some students have a chance at passing, and that even a failing score can improve college outcomes.
. . . A National Center for Education Statistics study shows that remedial math placement halves the likelihood of a four-year degree, and remedial reading levels lower it even further. Is a year wasted in an AP course really going to improve college outcomes more than a year spent escaping remediation?
High schools often give bonus points for grades in AP classes, even when teachers give A’s and B’s to students who fail the end-of-course exam, Kerr writes.
The College Board should institute mandatory grading policies, linking the weighted course grades directly to test scores. Failure to test or a ‘1’ score should result in a loss of the AP designation; a ‘2’ score should receive a C. Only a 4 or 5 score should receive an A.
Schools would stop placing unprepared students in AP courses if failure meant lowering their grade point averages, Kerr argues. Student would refuse to take classes they have little chance of passing.