Teacher Meghan Rio leads a discussion in AP U.S. history at Glenbard West High in a Chicago suburb. Photo: Antonio Perez, Chicago Tribune
As schools push disadvantaged students to take Advanced Placement courses, pass rates are falling on AP exams. Does AP help if students fail the exam?, asks Natalie Gross on the Education Writers Association blog.
“Cicero’s J.S. Morton High School District has pushed its mostly low-income students to take tough Advanced Placement courses and exams — just like teens do at elite high schools,” reports Diane Rado in the Chicago Tribune. The number of students taking AP exams doubled in five years, but “passing rates plunged.”
Trevor Packer, head of the AP program at the nonprofit College Board based in New York, said even students who get scores below 3 can still benefit from AP by attending a rigorous class, becoming familiar with a college-level syllabus, experiencing intensive reading and other benefits.
. . . “We are fundamentally opposed to the gatekeeping that was happening 20 years ago and it continues,” said Packer, referencing roadblocks — such as test scores or grades — that keep kids from getting into honors and AP classes in high school.
However, in 2013, Packer told Politico reporter Stephanie Simon that research showed college grades and graduation rates were no higher for AP students, unless they earned a passing grade of 3 or better.
Earlier research that showed benefits for all AP students was flawed, he said, because it didn’t control for other predictors of college success, such as family income and high-school grades.
A new Illinois law requires state colleges and universities to grant college credit for students who earn a score of 3 or higher on AP exams, Rado notes. Last year, 62.8 percent of public school students did that well.
At an EWA seminar in Los Angeles, Robert Tai, a University of Virginia researcher, said that students who passed AP science exams with a 3, did poorly in first-semester science courses.