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Texas Trends Show Advanced Placement Programs Not Created Equal

December 8, 2009

by Agnes Jasinski

Two articles in The Dallas Morning News this week take a look at trends happening across the state regarding Advanced Placement course offerings. One article looked at data evaluating Texas high school students that showed more than half fail the AP exams, where passing marks of a 3 on a 1-5 scale are typically required to receive college credit for the courses. Another article looked at inequities in AP choices across the region. Some schools offered students more than 30 courses to choose from; others offered a less than impressive slate.

AP courses have been growing in popularity over the last few years, as guidance counselors urge excelling students to take more of the courses to get more college credit, and, in most cases, save on the college costs of many general education requirements if they end up passing those final exams. AP classes often mean a more impressive academic transcript, and at a time when college admissions are more competitive, any boost on that transcript might be worth the effort.

But as the data from Texas suggests, questions remain about the shortcomings of the program. Supporters of the courses say that with the growing number of students taking AP classes, it is only natural for there to be a larger number of students failing their comprehensive AP exams. However, even the administrators of the AP program agree that more should be done to address the low number of college-level offerings at lower-income high schools. According to The Dallas Morning News, schools in low-income districts don't have the funds to not only cover the costs of an extensive AP program, but attract educators to teach those courses. Many of those schools have decided to offer college-level through other means, such as partnerships with local community colleges.

AP classes aren't for everyone. While your GPA may see a boost if you get a high grade in the course, if you don't do well, you could hurt your academic record more than help it. Still, there are a number of advantages. We've already mentioned the cost benefits. If you do well on your AP exams, you could be saving thousands of dollars on college costs because you'll be testing out of those basic general education requirements. A taste of college-level courses could also better prepare you for your first year on campus. So if you're willing to challenge yourself and put the work in that will be required for you to ace those final AP exams, consider your school's offerings. If those offerings are slim, look outside your high school. AP isn't the only way to earn college credit and prepare yourself for college.


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