Advanced Placement (AP) classes seem to be in the news a lot these days, including a big mention in the state of the union address. However, a new study is questioning whether AP science courses are as rigorous as they should be.
The classes are touted as college-level work for high school students to give them an edge in the fierce competition for college, but the study by a Harvard senior lecturer in astronomy and a University of Virginia assistant professor found that students who scored high on the exams in biology, chemistry, and physics didn’t earn much better grades than students who never took the advanced classes.
The findings come at the same time that some top level universities are making it harder to use AP credits to skip entry level science classes because of concerns by some professors that students don’t have a good foundation in subjects like biology and physics.
The College Board, keeper of the AP flame, is disputing the findings based on both the sample size and for only including students enrolled in beginning level college classes, “not those who tested out of them and registered for higher-level classes”.
However, the Board is still concerned enough about the quality of the AP program to launch their own national audit of the classes. Among the issues they need to address are both teacher training and the pressure to water down course requirements as schools push more students to take AP classes.