Jay Mathews has a wonderful article in today’s Post looking at the way that Advanced Placement programs have changed over the past few years. AP classes and tests were created to allow select high school students to do college-level work and, if they scored high enough on the exam, receive credit in college (or at least a pass on having to take beginning classes). In some parts of the country that is still how AP classes are viewed. But not in the Washington area – where all the children are above average.

In Washington-area schools almost any student can take AP classes and, in most schools, are highly encouraged to do so. Mathews agrees with this concept:

I think it would be an act of educational malpractice to stop the expansion of AP. That would mean saying to B and C students: "We can’t keep you from going to college, but we are going to keep you from taking a course and a test that will help prepare you for college."

I agree – with two conditions. First, the classes must not be watered down to avoid relatively large numbers of C and Ds. This is supposed to be college-level work (which admittedly is not what it used to be either) and that should mean a more rigorous academic experience than most students are used to. Second, it needs to be made clear to both students and parents that more work will be required to achieve the scores they are used to getting. Too many students in the AP classes I taught (and their parents) assumed that just by being allowed in the class they were entitled to at least a B.