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Another Challenge to the Index

Jay Mathews should be happy with this report. It shows that the number of students taking AP tests is way up, almost 25% in the past four years.

Just ignore the fact that the “the proportion of tests receiving what is deemed a passing score has dipped, and the mean score is down for the fourth year in a row”.

While the College Board sees the increasing number of test-takers as a positive phenomenon, she added, “we feel very strongly that students should not be placed into AP classes without better preparation.”

Referring to scores on AP exams, Trevor Packer, the College Board vice president who oversees the AP program, said: “We’re seeing more 2’s than ever before. We’re seeing more 1’s than ever before.”

Asked whether at some point the College Board would determine that broadened access to the program wasn’t worth the deteriorating scores, Mr. Packer said, “If I were to see two years of statistically significant declines [in any given subject], I’d start to get nervous.”

In any case, there’s no reason to be nervous. Test takers are increasing.

And, after all, the only criteria for judging the quality of a high school is in the taking of the tests, not the passing of them.


  1. Karen Janowski

    And let’s not forget that EACH AP exam the student takes costs $84! This is a big business.
    Check out the website – “AP can change your life. Through college-level AP courses, you enter a universe of knowledge that might otherwise remain unexplored in high school.”
    What student wants to be left out of that opportunity!?

  2. Benjamin Baxter

    I may have already commented to this effect on another post. If so, please ignore this comment.

    When I was in AP classes, the most frustrating thing for me was that our school was berated for having such a low AP pass rate compared to other schools.

    It wasn’t a fair comparison, though, as my school was the only one in the reason where students were required to take the AP test unless they had a serious and compelling reason not to take the test. At the other schools, with inferior or equal AP programs, poorer students were actively discouraged from taking the test.

    There is nothing discouraging about those figures.


  3. Tim

    I have no problem with schools encouraging more kids to take AP classes, as long as those students know what they’re getting into. They must clearly understand this is college level work.

    What I do have a problem with, and the point of my post, is when people use the number of kids taking AP tests as the sole measure of high school quality, as is done in Mathews “challenge” index.

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