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Brace yourselves, Advanced Placement exams are coming. Advance Placement and Pre-Advance Placement classes have flooded our schools. Are they here to stay? Well, only time will tell. Just like any curriculum or whim the government decides to implement in our schools. We need to take an honest look at AP courses and what they can do for our schools and students:
1. College Credit-The first benefit of an AP class is the opportunity for college credit. The College Board AP test is graded on a scale of one to five. A score of a three will earn the student a freshman credit, allowing them to focus on their major. Though the curriculum is rigorous, a student that is willing to work hard and study will more than likely receive the credit. The test itself is timed, on the English exams, it is fifty-five multiple choice questions in an hour, and three essays in two hours. The higher the student scores on the AP exam, it is more likely he or she is ready for college and will succeed. It is an indicator just like the SAT or ACT exam. Click on this link to help students calculate their scores.
2. Chances of finishing College- A student that has taken an Advanced Placement class is more likely to graduate from college. The work load of college isn’t as surprising and students may have received credit for classes. The majority of our honors students have not been challenged, if we look at our curriculum honestly, look at this report.
3. Study Skills– Honors students usually just sit back and absorb what teachers tell them and put it back on the test, then when college arrives and the shock of actually having to study, balance life, and work causes them to fail. If a student learns study skills in high school and learns APPLICATION of skills rather than memorization, that student will excel in college rather than retake freshmen courses or drop out altogether. Students do not understand that life does not stop for them. We have to teach them how to balance responsibilities and taking Advanced Placement courses is one step towards that.
1. Cost- Advanced Placement exams are $89 per student. Many districts are picking up the cost of these exams, but they are getting expensive. The question is becoming why are we picking up the cost of an exam for a child that is just going to put any answer? Not all students are like this, but a student that just refuses to take the test seriously is costing taxpayers serious money. In addition to the costs of the final exam, teachers are sent to professional development to know how to teach the course- which is usually in another city. Many of the textbooks are not “AP” level and the cost of new books must be picked up somewhere.
2. Time –Advanced Placement classes should be year round, however, the majority of districts have changed to block scheduling which are four classes for ninety minutes for only a semester. Cramming everything into the spring semester is challenging for the students and teachers. The students, especially those who have never had an AP class, do not study the material at home and are unprepared to discuss concepts in class. There is so much to cover and frankly, not enough class time to teach it all. In Louisiana, our state tests are not timed. Students are encouraged to take as long as they need. The AP exam is timed, so we are preparing students for two different types of tests leading to more confusion.
3. Tests, tests, tests– Do our students really need another standardized test? My poor juniors are subjected to the ACT exam, end of course testing, and AP testing- all in one year. They also have pre-diagnostic and post diagnostic tests for their content area classes. Is it really fair to give them another test? Unfortunately, the AP test must be taught. They have to understand the structure of it and master the timing of it, so that means practice. All these standardized tests put so much pressure on our students. The honors students want A’s and they will strive to get them, many will become anxious over it. Is it worth it?
Overall, AP exams are a positive thing for our schools. The students are prepared for college and have an excellent opportunity. We need to start looking at which students will benefit from the AP classes instead of putting every honors student in a class. Smaller classes increase chances of threes and keep cost down. AP classes are a benefit to every student that WANTS to take advantage of the program. For more data on Advanced Placement exams, click here.