According to the report from the Texas Education Agency (TEA), nearly one in five Texas high school juniors and seniors took Advanced Placement exams, AP exams, in 2005-2006. There are almost three times more students who took AP exam or International Baccalaureate Examination (IB exam) in 2005-2006 compare to the number of students in 1994-1995. The article points out that the driving forces for students to take high school classes that they can earn college credit or taking exams are competition in the job market and high college tuition.
Currently, the AP program allows students to take more advanced classes and let them take end-of-course examinations to earn college credit, if students score 3 or higher on a 5-point scale. The IB program lets student take end-of-course tests as well and the students who pass the exam can enter a Texas university as a sophomore.
Gene Buinger, superintendent of the Hurst-Euless-Bedford school district, said that the parents realize that the credit earned during high school years can be a great assistance in high college tuition.
Only in the Fort Worth school district, 2,504 students took 4,829 AP exams in 2006, and more than 50% of students are qualified to earn college credit. Buinger also said that making students to take the exam will allow teachers to be accountable for the result. Cynthia Sedam, director for advanced academic services, said that the kids must have valuable skills and the Fort Worth schools are beginning to focus on preparing middle school students to take AP classes in high school.
It is probably true that the students who passed AP or IB exams with high score will impress many college admissions offices. And these students will skip introductory courses and will be starting with more advanced courses or start as sophomores depending on programs that have been taken or credit they have earned.
But is taking AP or IB program or exam will help students to get prepared enough for more advanced courses as they skip introductory classes?
Beginning college is already a totally new experience for many high school graduates. College life is whole lot different in terms of taking classes, managing your own time, and there’s no one to tell you what to do. Some students even struggle to get through this unexpected and inexperienced freshmen years. For many students, this will have great effects on taking classes as well and students must deal with how to manage the anxiety with studying.
Some studies have shown that students who took AP exams have higher rate to be successful in college life and to graduate in four years. But these studies are somewhat biased. Researchers should though about that to what extent students’ success is directly related to the AP program itself compared to each individual student’s personal characteristics.
Also we should think carefully if the students who completed AP or IB programs and exams are prepared enough to skip introductory courses. Even in introductory classes in college, various professors teach in various manners. Also many of them are focus on different factors through their courses. Then can college admissions conclude that these high school students who took AP or IB programs are well prepared to take the next advanced courses? This can be very controversial. According to the survey performed by Harvard researcher Philip M. Sadler and University of Virginia researcher Robert H. Tai., AP science students at 63 colleges concluded that their AP experience did not help them much. Also a study showed that non-AP students who took the prerequisite courses in college biology got better grades than AP-Credit students I the subsequent courses. Based on these studies, AP or IB can’t be compared to introductory classes in college and shouldn’t be the measure of students’ success.
These programs are somewhat biased measurement of valuable skills that students should have. This shows how our society is still measures one’s abilities to be successful based on test scores rather than trying to look at various other factors.
Yes, completing AP or IB programs and earning college credits may help parents and students to reduce huge college tuition in short-run view. But we seriously need to think again that if those students will be able to complete college without solid understanding of introductory knowledge. In long-run, this may cause students, who are already strongly pressured under AP and IB programs in high school, to be more stressed about their college experiences and stay longer in college, therefore paying more tuitions, in some cases if some of students fail to do well without solid base.
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