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Back to Jan. Ed Reporter

Education Reporter
NUMBER 228 THE NEWSPAPER OF EDUCATION RIGHTS JANUARY 2005

AP Courses Seek Broader Enrollment;
Critics Fear Watering Down Will Result
Some Prep Schools Opt Out of Program
The Advanced Placement nationwide program of college-level courses in high school is quietly undergoing a transformation as momentum builds to open such courses to all students who are interested.

The College Board, which sponsors AP courses and tests, has been trying to recast the program as accessible to any student willing to do the work, regardless of academic standing. Federal and state incentive programs offer grants and bonuses to encourage more students to enroll. Under the No Child Left Behind Act, about $24 million is available annually to states to expand access to the AP program by underserved students.

Critics worry that casting a wider net will cause the quality of the program to be watered down as more students struggle to meet the standards and fail. There is "a concern among some that AP, in trying to go beyond its initial mission to serve only academically gifted students to serving as many students as sign up, is going to compromise the program's high benchmarks," Jennifer Dounay, a policy analyst with the Education Commission of the States, told Education Week (11-3-04).

More than 1.1 million students participated in AP courses last year. About 70% take the AP tests and about 61% earn a score of at least 3 out of a possible 5. Colleges generally require at least a 3 to award credit for the course.

Some selective colleges have recently raised their requirements for awarding credit, such as requiring a score of 5. Harvard College now requires a 5 on four AP tests for a student to graduate in three years instead of four.

Some prestigious private high schools have opted out of the AP program, asserting that they can offer more rigorous or flexible courses outside of the program. (Wall Street Journal, 11-23-04)


 
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