AP Classes Gain Popularity
In February of 2014 the College Board released its 44-page “10th Annual Advanced Placement Report to the Nation.” Students across America take Advanced Placement (AP) classes in order to experience college-level work and then take exams that may give them college credit and allow them to skip introductory-level college courses. Students can receive a maximum grade of five on AP exams; most colleges only accept a four or five from a student in order to test out of introductory classes or receive unit credit.
According to the College Board: “In AP classrooms, students examine texts, data, and evidence with great care, learning to analyze source material, develop and test hypotheses, and craft effective arguments. They engage in intense discussions, solve problems collaboratively, and learn to write and speak clearly and persuasively.”
AP coursework and testing has doubled in the ten years since 2003, with over a million students taking AP classes and exams in 2013. Some students take more than one AP class and exam, resulting in students having taken a total of three million AP exams in 2013. Although the College Board has the “conviction that all students who are academically prepared — no matter their location, background, or socioeconomic status — deserve the opportunity to access the rigor and benefits of AP,” only 60% of American high schools offer any AP classes. (CBSNews.com, 2-14-14) The College Board report claims that there were nearly 300,000 students in the class of 2013 who had the “potential to succeed in AP” classes but never took an AP course. More students than ever before are scoring less than a three on the exam, which usually means they cannot receive any college credit.
The report claims that those students who take AP courses earn higher GPAs in college and are more likely to graduate college within five years. They often go on to take more classes in the area of their AP study and when they do, they do as well or better than students who took the introductory class at the college rather than in high school. The College Board offers AP courses in a range of disciplines including English, Calculus, Physics, History, Government, Studio Art, and eight foreign languages.
Some colleges are backing away from accepting students’ high school AP work and tests, although according to the National Center for Education Statistics in 2012-13, about 78% of degree-granting four-year institutions accepted AP credits. Dartmouth students no longer receive credit toward graduation for AP scores. “There’s a strong feeling that the high school courses, while valuable — and there was no sense that these were not good courses — but they were not the same as a Dartmouth credit,” explained the Dartmouth registrar. (InsideHigherEd.com, 1-18-13)
Students entering the College of William & Mary in 2015 will no longer be able to use AP classes taken in high school to fulfill core, general-education requirements. But William & Mary students may still use AP classes as electives or to fulfill certain departmental requirements and to use them as unit credit toward graduation, if they scored high on the exam when in high school. (The Chronicle of Higher Education, 2-12-14)
For some students, high school AP classes and exams are a means of saving money during the college years. They are able to take higher-level college courses rather than spending tuition on classes they can take in high school and for which they pay only the fee to take the AP exam.