Advanced Placement courses should not be dismissed

Solutions to complicated problems do not materialize by ignoring the issue or cutting it away entirely. Problems must be addressed, preserving the good and remedying the bad, keeping intact as much of what works as possible.

Such is the case with the Advanced Placement program for high school students. The AP program began in 1955 after a series of studies came to the conclusion young Americans’ education advanced greatly through early presentation of challenging, college-level coursework. Now, the program has taken off – nearly tripling nationwide since 1990. Yet this is something not universally seen as a good thing. Amid concern there are not as many qualified teachers as AP programs, schools such as Harvard and Boston universities are re-evaluating their AP credit acceptance.

Although the AP program is flawed, this is inadequate reason for top schools to set the precedent of rejecting credits. The spread of the program should be viewed as a positive sign in the United States, where public schools are often charged with graduating woefully unchallenged or unprepared citizens. The fact that more students have AP programs available highlights the success of the program’s pilot goal: encouraging youth to strive for academic excellence. If universities are concerned coursework is watered down or inefficiently instructed, they should investigate the administering schools case by case rather than reject the program outright.

Another aim of the AP program is to prevent repetitive, unnecessary courses. Many students complete college prerequisites in high school that other students need to cover more thoroughly later. To refuse credit for these AP classes is detrimental both academically and financially, forcing students to take redundant classes.

To justify their more stringent AP credit policy, universities cite studies comparing the performance of second-level chemistry students who took the beginning course with students who took only the AP test, finding students who took the class performed better. These findings are more flawed than the AP program itself. Obviously students who took an entire semester of chemistry at the same university have an advantage over their AP counterparts. They know how classes at that university are taught, and likely took the course directly before, as opposed to AP classes that took place in high school. This does not mean the AP students have a poor understanding – their performance is simply circumstantially weaker.

Finally, regardless of instruction or lack thereof, before any students get credit, they must take an AP test and earn a minimum score of three to prove their comprehension of the material. If the class is insufficient, or the students unprepared, they will not receive the necessary minimum score. This should cement the program’s validity for skeptics. Those who do not receive credit were at least pushed to a higher plateau of learning, readying them for college in a different way, and those who pass are saved the futility and skyrocketing expense of redundant classes.