Education

AP exams are a scam?

Published 4.13.2017
This article in The Atlantic asserts that advanced placement (AP) are a scam because they don't provide what they claim— which is a college level of instruction.

My beef with AP courses isn't novel. The program has a bountiful supply of critics, many of them in the popular press (see here and here), and many increasingly coming from academia as well (see here).

The author then lists his six issues with the exam. I took AP classes back in the age of dinosaurs. I concur that the courses were nothing like an actual college course. I wasn’t able to take advantage of the top scores I got because the college I attended simply didn’t accept the credits, so I can verify that my parents didn't save any money.

When I took AP courses there weren’t that many options. There are many more now. And apparently kids who should not be in the classes are taking them. That was also different when I took them. Basically, only kids in the “honors” love classes even had the opportunity to opt to take the classes— and not all of them did.

The courses did take more time than standard high school courses with a lot more reading and homework, so I can also agree with the idea that in taking the course kids are choosing to forgo the opportunity to do other things. However, that's a valid choice for a kid to make. His complaint that the courses preclude free inquiry could be applied to the entire school experience, not just AP classes.

Many critics lay the blame on the College Board itself, a huge "non-profit" organization that operates like a big business. The College Board earns over half of all its revenues from its Advanced Placement program -- more than all its other revenue streams (SATs, SAT subject tests, PSATs) combined. The College Board's profits for 2009, the most recent year for which records were available, were 8.6 percent of revenue, which would be respectable even for a for-profit corporation.

Part of the problem is that kids take too many AP courses now. As neither of my children climbed onto that treadmill, these thoughts are based on my observations of other families. Actually, my daughter was briefly in an AP class, and decided it was too much and dropped it.

There is definitely status associated with taking AP classes, both for the kids and the parents. Parents are barely mentioned in the article, save to be warned against listening to a counselor's advice for their kids to take the classes. I think that lets too many parents off the hook. Left to their own devices, fewer kids would take the classes is my bet. But kids are seldom allowed to make their own choices. .