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Personal Reflection: The Case Against AP Testing (Class of '20 Opinion)

bz1119bz1119 18 replies3 threads Junior Member
I posted a thread earlier about "What People Get Wrong When Building A Spike in College".

Now another topic I want to talk about while reflecting on high school is why AP classes are ineffective and are so intertwined with our education system that it would require a collective effort to get rid of.

In short, this is not a rant against the online testing that is occurring now, I am not taking AP tests this year but my major qualm with the tests falls under two categories:

AP classes no longer do what they promise.

AP classes are extremely limiting.

First, AP classes promise college-level work while you are in high school and college credit and placement. Nowadays, that is growing rarer and rarer. There are over 4,928 colleges and universities in the United States, and it just is unreasonable to believe that a singular test will be able to unify the experience of introductory courses at these institutions.

Increasingly, colleges are not considering AP's when granting students credits in certain departments. And even at schools where they do, qualified students who could skip introductory classes have begun to stay opted-in to introductory sequences.

However, AP classes and tests have found themselves so deeply intertwined with our educational system, and the college application process that students find themselves taking AP classes in areas they are not even interested in just to boost their GPA.

Secondly, let's talk about how they are limiting. With their goal of producing a curriculum that matches the introductory class that every college offers, the curriculum of AP courses are rigid, overflown, and superficial. Teachers find themselves not being able to tailor the course to how their high school schedule works, how their students learn, in short AP classes are the distinct opposite of intellectual curiosity.

Furthermore, the lack of an AP curriculum did not inhibit my ability to take the AP tests. I was an AP Scholar with Distinction, but I think this shows the issue with AP testing, my main way to study was to look at rubrics and example essays. (Sorry if this is cocky)

Many of their tests test your ability to write answers they want to see and fit their rubric more than what demonstrates an understanding of the curriculum.

In the end, I took the AP tests because I felt that everyone around me was doing it and that it would hurt my chances if I did not. This kind of societal pressure shows that to truly decouple AP testing from the US education, a step that needs to be taken to inject students with intellectual curiosity, larger steps need to be taken here.

I would like to remind everyone that this is only one student's take on the system of AP testing. I have read articles both in its favor and in its defense but drew from personal experience to write this article. I think the AP system is one part that makes the college application process so dreaded and needs to address along with the system itself.

Read more here.
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Replies to: Personal Reflection: The Case Against AP Testing (Class of '20 Opinion)

  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus 82767 replies738 threads Senior Member
    bz1119 wrote: »
    Increasingly, colleges are not considering AP's when granting students credits in certain departments.

    Probably more so with APs like human geography, seminar, and research which may not have any direct equivalent to courses offered at most colleges. However, oldies covering common courses like calculus are more commonly accepted for advanced placement. Also, high school students who go beyond AP level in math typically do not repeat their AP calculus before taking multivariable calculus or other more advanced math at a local college.
    bz1119 wrote: »
    And even at schools where they do, qualified students who could skip introductory classes have begun to stay opted-in to introductory sequences.

    Sometimes, students do this for grade-grubbing purposes (although not always successfully if they pay too little attention to the course that they are repeating the AP credit for).
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  • Techno13Techno13 336 replies13 threads Member
    High schools should offer some advanced track-- whether it's AP or something else. I am not a fan of the AP tests or the emphasis on college credit. Go to college for college credit.
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  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus 82767 replies738 threads Senior Member
    Techno13 wrote: »
    High schools should offer some advanced track-- whether it's AP or something else. I am not a fan of the AP tests or the emphasis on college credit. Go to college for college credit.

    However, colleges should consider that some students will want and benefit from advanced placement, the original intent of AP tests (when that was mainly the domain of a small number of elite high schools and elite colleges).

    It is interesting how what was once an elite program is now disdained by the same entities that wanted to start it in the first place, probably because it is now more widely available in non-elite high schools.
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  • momofsenior1momofsenior1 9830 replies110 threads Senior Member
    I think this is very school dependent. Both the HS and their teaching staff, the colleges. My D's AP teachers were phenomenal. They used the AP as a guide but when far deeper and beyond the content. Students leave her HS feeling very well prepared for the rigors of college. The school also had a strict cap on APs so it wasn't a race to get through as many as possible. 0 freshman year, 1 sophomore year, 3 junior year, and with special permission, 4 senior year.

    My D is also at state flagship where all her AP and DE credits were accepted. While it doesn't help her graduate earlier, she was able to place into the appropriate level courses and met all her gen ed requirements. That freed up her schedule to do a special certification course and add a minor. She also can take fewer classes any semester. There is also the benefit of priority scheduling and registration of having upperclassman standing.
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  • Groundwork2022Groundwork2022 3260 replies74 threads Senior Member
    DD's AP classes have been excellent too. There are limits to how many a student can take freshman and sophomore year, plus the school has a firm and clear track of prerequisites and minimum grade requirements in place (both to get into APs in the first place and to remain in them). In other words, the designation, at least at our school, does mean something.

    Before I got close to being on board with overthrowing our school's AP system, I'd very much want to examine the proposed alternative curricula.

    I'm open to the argument. I have heard the cases made by private boarding schools that they can drop AP in favor of their own programs, and I'll agree those could be very effective, as I'd certainly expect/demand them to be when they're charging $40K+ per student per year. However, I don't see DD's AP classes as "ineffective" or "limiting", nor as "rigid, overflown, and superficial" either. You've thrown out adjectives with no data backing that up.

    Sure, a number of kids are in the class just for the test score, and those aren't going be as engaged, seeking, or stretching as those students who are there because they love to learn and engage with other smart kids. You haven't convinced me that is inherent to the AP program rather than the fact that students get back what they put in.
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  • 1NJParent1NJParent 2229 replies37 threads Senior Member
    The AP program has become too driven by commercial interests. In an effort to attract more takers of its courses and exams, it deviated from its original mission. They're too many of them. Many of them are too unchallenging. Their curricula are too regimented and too exam-oriented. More academically oriented colleges have constantly been tightening their AP credit policies to make them less meaningful (fewer credits, higher score barriers, etc). Some colleges don't even give any credit for any scores on any AP course.
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  • digiflipdigiflip 52 replies4 threads Junior Member
    bz1119 wrote: »
    Secondly, let's talk about how they are limiting. With their goal of producing a curriculum that matches the introductory class that every college offers, the curriculum of AP courses are rigid, overflown, and superficial. Teachers find themselves not being able to tailor the course to how their high school schedule works, how their students learn, in short AP classes are the distinct opposite of intellectual curiosity.

    Isn't that kind of why they're being used so widely in the first place, and why you're able to get credit for doing AP Calculus BC, but you probably won't for the Calculus 2 taught at your high school, with a curriculum tailored to the specific school? Because there's a clearly stated curriculum that schools across the country have to follow in order to get credit, getting a 5 on the exam has value, for credit, and for the purpose of admissions (This is more about courses like Calculus and foreign language, not the "fluff" ones like Psychology or human geography).
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  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus 82767 replies738 threads Senior Member
    edited May 22
    digiflip wrote: »
    bz1119 wrote: »
    Secondly, let's talk about how they are limiting. With their goal of producing a curriculum that matches the introductory class that every college offers, the curriculum of AP courses are rigid, overflown, and superficial. Teachers find themselves not being able to tailor the course to how their high school schedule works, how their students learn, in short AP classes are the distinct opposite of intellectual curiosity.

    Isn't that kind of why they're being used so widely in the first place, and why you're able to get credit for doing AP Calculus BC, but you probably won't for the Calculus 2 taught at your high school, with a curriculum tailored to the specific school?

    @bz1119 's criticism is probably applicable to some particular AP courses like world history and human geography, where similar courses at colleges, if they exist at all, are likely to vary significantly in content, as opposed to those like single variable calculus where most colleges have fairly similar content in those courses, so that the AP courses can cover that content without "spreading themselves too thinly".
    edited May 22
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  • Boxcar101Boxcar101 32 replies0 threads Junior Member
    digiflip wrote: »
    bz1119 wrote: »

    Isn't that kind of why they're being used so widely in the first place, and why you're able to get credit for doing AP Calculus BC, but you probably won't for the Calculus 2 taught at your high school, with a curriculum tailored to the specific school? Because there's a clearly stated curriculum that schools across the country have to follow in order to get credit, getting a 5 on the exam has value, for credit, and for the purpose of admissions (This is more about courses like Calculus and foreign language, not the "fluff" ones like Psychology or human geography).

    I'm not sure this is quite right. I think "AP" is more in the exam and not the course. Schools are free to teach more or less or different from what is on the exam. Students can take the exam without having taken the underlying class.

    But in most cases I suspect you're correct. AP courses are the ultimate example of "teaching to the test" and "high stakes testing," which a lot of people claim to hate but don't seem to mind with the AP courses.
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  • yearstogoyearstogo 760 replies30 threads Member
    I really do not like the College Board and think they do a very poor job. They have no competition and therefore perform generally like the DMV or government does given the lack of competition, i.e., typically very poorly. For DS, taking APs were really done as they were the most challenging classes as many classes at his public HS in 9th/10th were not challenging at all.

    Even though some colleges do not accept APs, it is at least possible to get credit and not have to repeat material. DS current HS offers courses like Lin Algebra, MultiVariable, Diff Eq which he will take and not receive credit and probably need to retake the material during college. Not a problem if he gets into MIT, etc but otherwise not much fun for him to retake, or me to have to pay for it. Sure it is possible at some colleges to "test-out" but it takes quite a bit of effort at many of them.

    So while APs leave much to be desired, they are a great option currently. They also serve to highlight the differences in high schools although it seems colleges do not really care. (A local high schools kids routinely receive 2s on the APs after getting an A in the class...) Perhaps, things will change given the current situation colleges are experiencing...in any case, it does seem that ACT and CB are in trouble and will suffer a decline in test taking.
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