Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Colleges Deny AP Credit for No Good Reason

Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate classes would seem to be one of the most efficient and innovative of developments in the American education system - a system long-entrenched in rigid inefficiencies.  Based on the idea that many students are well prepared enough for college to "pass out of" general admission requirements like freshman writing, AP classes eased the load and the cost of education for many students.  In reality, it allowed them to avoid basic level classes that were, in all honesty, a waste of their time and money.  However, that has changed in recent years as AP classes have flourished nationwide.

The trend among some colleges is to deny credit for AP, a disturbing problem most recently implemented at Dartmouth University and spotlighted by Jay Matthews of the Washington Post.  Dartmouth and many other top-tier universities have taken the position that the AP classes at high schools - and the national AP exam developed and administered by the College Board - can not possibly match the rigor and quality of their freshman classes.  The decision by the Dartmouth faculty was based on no research and was just an instinctive response by the faculty.  This knee-jerk reaction makes sense, considering it is the professors' classes that the students are avoiding.  And from the university's standpoint, it is a financial problem to excuse kids from gen ed classes, which are the cash cows for most colleges.

Clearly, colleges have a right to accept or deny any class and offer their students any incentive.  But there is something suspicious and unseemly about the decisions by elite universities to dismiss the validity of AP and IB classes and exams.  On a purely anecdotal level, I have been sending students to elite universities for more than a decade, and my students are always, in their words, "over-prepared" for the rigors of college classes.  While many have been required to take freshman writing from a college prof - or, sadly, a teaching assistant - despite earning As and Bs in my class and 4s and 5s on the national AP exam, none has struggled or even found the classes remotely necessary.  Often they may enjoy them simply because the class has engaging material and the student is motivated.  Yet, there is little doubt that the requirement was an unnecessary time and financial burden for students.

Many students - especially top students attending elite colleges - are coming out of high school more well prepared than any high school students in history.  While some AP classes in high school may not have a Ph.D. at the front of class, there should be little dispute about the validity of a student's score on the national AP exam.  With costs ever increasing, many students could successfully complete college in less time, and there is nothing wrong with that.  Universities may need to be forced to comply.  The state of Colorado has legislation that requires any state school to accept CE (concurrent enrollment) credits earned by Colorado students.  They don't have a "choice" on whether to accept the credit, as schools do with AP scores.  Thus, if colleges continue this unresearched bias against AP which is costing students valuable time and money, states may need to take broader action.  For example, any college accepting state and federal funds could be required to comply with AP/IB/CE qualifications.

This might be bad for some introductory algebra and composition teachers at Dartmouth - but we shouldn't be too worried about that.


Freshman said...

I am extremely curious to hear your views on Noam Chomsky's "Public Education and Common Good" I think It would be a great topic for a new post on this blog. He gave this talk last week at East Stroudsburg University. I found a correlation between what Noam is saying and a previous post of yours regarding "the Lord of the Flies" regarding common good and societal role


mmazenko said...

Thanks for the link - I'm watching it and will definitely consider some commentary. Noam has a particular for of insight and has been providing important social criticism for decades.