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Are AP courses effective?

A Stanford researcher questions the value of AP classes in high school. Learn more at The San Jose Mercury News.

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  • Personally I thought they were, there was very little that challenged me in my regular classes. AP classes were where I met my friends and my challenges.

  • I know I was more prepared for UC level courses.  Also I felt the numerous AP classes I took helped me stand out on my college applications.  (note this was 15 years ago)

  • For those kids that are motivated, taking AP classes probably does help. The problem is that % of kids in AP is one of those things that schools think make them look good, so they have an incentive to push as many kids into the AP classes as possible. For a lot of those kids, taking the AP classes probably adds nothing to their ability to succeed in college. FWIW, my son scored a 5 and 4 on the two AP tests he took, without ever taking an AP class, or any class for that matter.

  • We didn't have AP courses per se in my small high school, but we were allowed to sit for AP exams, and one teacher in particular offered AP preparation, by way of a once a week nighttime course (thank you, Mr. Jack Leshner).  I can say that the questions on the exams were not quite up to the difficulty of courses that I experienced at college, but were far more involved than those on the New York State Regents Exams. 

    I think that the paper is right in basically saying that the data are inconclusive at best.

  • Meh. I ended up skipping some courses in college thanks to AP-testing out of them and found out in my last year of college that I in fact was therefore missing "breadth" classes that my higher level courses didn't fulfill. I was pretty ticked off.
    I never took any "regular" classes in math, science and history in high school, so I don't know how they would have compared.

  • I was fortunate to take many AP courses.

    While they're dumbing down education, this may be the only place where students find quality curriculum.

    The students in the other classes were bigger slackers and more distracted

  • If it satisfies a real thirst for knowledge & challenge, nice place to find it.

  • +Kae Kerry - Ya, I know the AP classes allow you to skip certain first year university courses, but I took them anyways for the easy credits. Why not take a course in first year you know you will do well in? It will just make your marks look better.

  • For some yes, for others it doesn't, earlier graduation is your goal then by all means take them.

  • Our school have forgot how to teach the basics

  • +Kelvin Njuguna the study says that the number of students who graduate early as the result of taking AP courses is negligible.

  • I didn't find AP classes to really benefit me.  I was super bored and depressed in all of high school though.  I'm a creative person and high school offered little in creative outlets.  I found all of high school to be oppressive and it did not foster anything in me.  I would have rather just skipped high school all together and gone straight to college.

  • "'The problem with Ms. Pope's analysis is that she fails to separate studies that analyze the benefit of simply taking an AP course (regardless of grade or exam score) from studies that analyze the benefit of learning enough to succeed on the AP exam,' Packer said in a statement."

    I agree with this statement. The benefits I got from my AP experience had nothing to do with succeeding in University (which was a whole different beast), but giving me a place with other like-minded individuals where we could fully expand our learning experience without being brought down by other slacker students. It created a comforting environment to learn at your own level.

  • Yup AP classes helped me graduate on time. They're a lot cheaper then an extra quarter of college.

  • AP courses helped my son graduate a full year early.  This prevented considerable tuition debt.
    Like any learning opportunity, some people will get more out of it than others.

  • Yes, valuable experience. I was able to graduate from college in 3.5 years thanks to AP and concurrent units from community college. I was that kid–took classes at local JC while enrolled in high school. I needed more challenging classes.

  • Depends on how you define effective.  In terms of gaining college credit in high school, yes.  But to frequently teachers are 'teaching to the test' and that is exactly what they are doing with AP's.  We all learn differently, so why are we teaching in just one way?

    The IB curriculum is far better and gives teachers at least some flexibility.  Many of the top schools in the US have moved away from AP/IB simply because their own curriculums do a better job of preparing students for higher education.

  • Depends on how you define effective.  In terms of gaining college credit in high school, yes.  But to frequently teachers are 'teaching to the test' and that is exactly what they are doing with AP's.  We all learn differently, so why are we teaching in just one way?

    The IB curriculum is far better and gives teachers at least some flexibility.  Many of the top schools in the US have moved away from AP/IB simply because their own curriculums do a better job of preparing students for higher education.

  • AP credits provided me the luxury/time to explore diverse college courses, participate in exchange program, and internships – and still graduate in four years.

  • AP credits provided me the luxury/time to explore diverse college courses, participate in exchange program, and internships – and still graduate in four years.

  • I'm disappointed to see AP classes being stacked up as a "get out of college early" plan. While I'm sympathetic to people needing to reduce the costs, it displays a fundamental flaw in our educational system – no, in our whole educational philosophy. The point of going to college is to get an advanced education, not to get a degree. We seem to have lost sight of that.

  • I'm disappointed to see AP classes being stacked up as a "get out of college early" plan. While I'm sympathetic to people needing to reduce the costs, it displays a fundamental flaw in our educational system – no, in our whole educational philosophy. The point of going to college is to get an advanced education, not to get a degree. We seem to have lost sight of that.

  • +Mark Lastiwka +1 on behalf of my daughter.

  • +Mark Lastiwka +1 on behalf of my daughter.

  • I found it very helpful. It made me realize the challenges that college entails. It also improved my study habits and gave me some college credit.

  • I found it very helpful. It made me realize the challenges that college entails. It also improved my study habits and gave me some college credit.

  • Yep, most students in the first semester in college struggle as they are not mentally prepared for the challenges of college

  • Yep, most students in the first semester in college struggle as they are not mentally prepared for the challenges of college

  • My AP classes really didn't prep us for college. They took a college semester course and stretched it out over an entire year of high school. I liked the courses well enough but wish I'd saved my money by skipping the AP exams for college credit. I had passing scores but the college I went to wouldn't accept them in place off their first level courses.

  • My AP classes really didn't prep us for college. They took a college semester course and stretched it out over an entire year of high school. I liked the courses well enough but wish I'd saved my money by skipping the AP exams for college credit. I had passing scores but the college I went to wouldn't accept them in place off their first level courses.

  • My '5' on the AP English exam let me bypass English 101 in community college, but I still ended up taking English 104 (Comp & Rhetoric) when I transferred up.

  • It all depends on the High School.
    My kids have LOTS of college credits and classes under their belts before they even begin college as a freshman.

  • It separates kids who want to learn from those just waiting to graduate.

  • I took AP computer science in my sinior year (last year). Our teacher did not 'teach to the test'. Instead, he taught us what he thought we should know in class. And gave us reading out of our book for homework. Some of the stuff we learned in class used what was going to be on the test. Like in my case we used the GridWorld API because that is the case study of the test. But there was a lot of different things to learn. It was a great experience in my thought

  • Jules

    AP courses – if you take the right ones (check CSU & UC requirements) – will save you, or your parent, in tuition costs. A score of a 4 on the AP Exam will let you bypass the college equivalent of the course (often a prerequisite). Therefore you enter college with a number of units already under your belt, don’t have to pay for those units, and set the odds in your favor that you will graduate on time if not sooner. My advice: Take AP courses. Put extra effort in and save yourself the time and high cost of taking that coursework later on at 10x times the price. (My son is currently attending out of state at UW and his AP courses will end up saving us at least 15 units or the equivalent of one quarter of coursework which is currently about $13,000 and set to go up next year.)

  • I think AP courses are very nice; my wife and I both took them when we were coming up, but I have been even more impressed by the International Baccalaureate (IB) program. I am seeing more schools dedicated to this program and the accompanying diploma (additional to your HS diploma) pop up from state to state. In Oregon, where I live, our children’s, pure play (and public) IB middle school/high school is ranked #1 among all schools in the state.

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