The main objective of the Advanced Placement Program (AP) created by the College Board is to allow high school students to take college level courses. If a student obtains a certain score on the AP test he qualifies for college credits; like many other College Board services such as the SAT, a small fee has to be paid in order for a student to take the test. And like the SAT, the College Board advertises benefits for taking AP courses; however, a study conducted by Stanford University says the benefits students gain might not be all that’s cracked up to be.
Like many College Board Programs and tests the widespread belief is that it is no longer measuring intelligence.
The research considers these few questions: Does taking AP classes make students more likely to succeed in college? Does taking AP classes boost a student’s chances of college admission? Does taking AP classes make college more affordable? Does the AP program help to narrow achievement gaps? Does the AP program enrich students’ high school experiences? Are schools with an AP program better than those without?
It challenges the four common assumptions about the program. One, the program gives students several advantages in terms of college. Two, it helps to narrow achievement gaps. Three, it enriches students’ high school experiences and four, schools with AP programs are better than those without AP programs.
Assumption #1: The AP program gives students several advantages in terms of college
This assumption consists of three separate questions that help to understand it. Taking AP courses makes students more likely to succeed in college, taking AP courses boosts a student’s chances of college admission, and taking AP courses and exams makes college more affordable.
“Studies that simply establish that students who are involved with the AP program in high school perform better in college do not necessarily provide proof that the AP program caused the students to be successful in college. It should come as no surprise that the same motivated, hardworking, and advanced students who take AP classes in high school are still motivated, hardworking, successful students when they get to the university.
…Increasingly, researchers caution universities and policy makers that the practice of using AP experience for the purposes of admission is potentially problematic because, as previously discussed, the research isn’t clear on whether AP experience alone increases the probability of college success (Klopfenstein & Thomas, 2010).
…Though we know of some cases where students have saved money due to AP credits in college, this tends to be the exception rather than the rule. Research shows that after controlling for background variables between AP and non-AP students, taking AP courses has very little impact on time to degree (Klopfenstein, 2010). In part, this is because colleges treat AP scores differently. For instance, while some colleges allow students to earn college credit with a passing exam score, others may advance students to the next level in a given subject but not award them any credit. Moreover, the very definition of a passing score varies from school to school, with a 3, 4, or 5 constituting a passing score at many schools and departments, while only a 4 or above is a passing score at others. For instance, in 2002, Harvard stopped awarding credit except for scores of 5, and recently, Dartmouth announced that it would stop awarding credit for AP courses altogether (Lewin, 2013).”
Assumption #2: The AP program helps to narrow achievement gaps
“If the AP program is to be used effectively to help make a difference in underserved schools, it will need to be part of a broader initiative that includes changes in professional development and the overall curricular sequence to better prepare students for college-level work.”
Assumption #3: AP programs enrich students’ high school experiences
“Many students take AP classes to pad their resumes and college applications, and are not necessarily interested in the subject matter or engaged with the course (Pope, 2001). Other students over-enroll in AP courses, taking several courses at a time (sometimes more than a typical college student might take). Since AP courses tend to have more homework and require extra studying for the exams, students may find themselves overloaded.”
Assumption #4: Schools with AP programs are better than schools without AP programs
“When implemented thoughtfully and effectively, the AP program may benefit certain students and allow for common assessments across schools and districts. This may be a useful tool for colleges and outside evaluators in assessing school efficacy. However, the presence of an AP program in a high school is not necessarily a valid indicator of a school’s quality.
…Colleges and universities want the best, the brightest, and the hardest working students, and enrollment in AP courses may signal this. Yet each institution handles the AP experience differently, and increasingly, universities seem to be moving away from awarding credit for AP courses. Moreover, there are pros and cons involved for high schools that offer an AP program. The program might allow certain students opportunities for higher level work, yet it also can siphon off the best students and teachers and may reduce the quality of education for non-AP students, and in some cases, cause undue stress for students enrolled in the program.”
The AP Program is not for everyone, if you’re trying to fluff up your college application by taking more than 1 AP course than it might be a no-no. It’s best to pick your favorite subject and learn about it because even if your future college doesn’t acknowledge the AP course at least you enjoyed learning.