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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Up, up and away: 'Recalibration' is raising AP exam scores

Advanced Placement scores were released this week, and they're higher than ever. But not necessarily because students are learning more. College Board, which runs AP, has "recalibrated" seven exams to make it easier to earn a passing score of 3, 4 or 5, writes John Moscatiello of Marco Learning. More exams will be recalibrated in the future.


AP scoring in these subjects is too rigorous, compared to college grading, according to the College Board's research. More subjects will be recalibrated next year.


"It is entirely possible that the Great Recalibration is a straightforward result of academic research in an effort to resolve the discrepancy between AP scores and equivalent college grades," Moscatiello writes. But the research hasn't been released.


College Board has an incentive to boost the number of students who can claim college credit. Increasingly, it's competing with dual enrollment programs, which "have little oversight and no high-stakes exam at the end of the year," he writes.


Many students see dual enrollment classes -- often taught by high school teachers with some training from the local community college -- as easier than AP.


Both programs are growing rapidly, enrolling many students who are not high achievers. A New York Times story last year, Why is the College Board pushing to expand Advanced Placement?, suggests that the expansion has been very lucrative for College Board, wrote Fordham's Michael Petrilli.


“Some 60 percent of AP exams taken by low-income students this year scored too low for college credit — 1 or 2 out of 5 — a statistic that has not budged in twenty years," the Times reported.


"The College Board deserves great credit in maintaining the high standards of the AP program — and especially AP exams — even as it has significantly expanded the number of low-income students participating in the program — a seven-fold increase over the past twenty years!," Petrilli wrote. "There could have been a great temptation to subtly lower the standards so that it became easier to score a 3, 4, or 5 as less-well-prepared students flooded into the courses."


But "nearly all of the recent changes to AP Exams are tending in the direction of simplification," writes Moscatiello. In addition to the recalibration, there are "much simpler free-response rubrics in AP History subjects and simpler multiple-choice questions across AP English subjects." Some AP exam readers say "they are being encouraged to award points on free-response questions more freely than ever before."


SAT and AP scores are supposed to "provide a stable measure of student success" at a time of grade inflation, College Board has argued, he writes. "But by aligning AP scores to college grades, is the College Board pegging its currency to another currency that is experiencing its own runaway inflation?"


"AP is undermining its own legitimacy through an opaque recalibration of scores, tweets education researcher Tom Loveless. "Sad thing is, if colleges begin doubting AP scores, a lot of working class kids will lose a way to reduce college costs by reducing time-to-degree."


College Board lobbied "state legislatures to pass laws requiring public universities grant credit for AP exams (usually a 3 or above)," notes Higher Ed Data Stories, which has lovely graphs.. Now that the incentive to enforce rigor is gone, "College Board can now shift to growing market penetration, as they do when they encourage school districts to push AP, and encourage even students who might not be prepared to take AP classes."

4 comentarios


Bruce Smith
Bruce Smith
11 jul

The best educated families will drop AP for A-levels and IB programmes, at least until (and if) the grades of the latter become inflated too, as the AP exam passes lose their ability to advance the placement of the students who have relied upon them for advantages they will no longer confer, and as the College Board further loses its credibility with world-class higher educational institutions.

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linda.g.oc
10 jul

I am guessing that the kinds of AP classes my older kids took, at an excellent suburban public school, have now gone with the dinosaurs; at least outside of top magnet schools. Each AP class had an honors (real honors; not “regular” college prep) prerequisite; honors world for AP Euro, honors US for AP, honors sciences for AP sciences etc. Also, all AP sciences were double-period, every day. Those APs were truly college-level; honors college level for most colleges, even. Literally all kids took the AP tests and all passed; mostly with 4-5s. I know that the AP chem and physics had 85% 4-5s and calc BC was about evenly split across 3-4-5. They could be taught at college level…

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m_t_anderson
10 jul

I presume the balloon illustration is a subtle comment about inflation, no?

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Joanne Jacobs
Joanne Jacobs
10 jul
Contestando a

Or not so subtle.

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