Growing Pains in the Advanced Placement Program: Do Tough Trade-Offs Lie Ahead?

Ann Duffett & Steve Farkas:

In 2002-2003, 1 million students participated in AP by taking at least one exam. Five years later, nearly 1.6 million did—a 50+ percent increase. But is growth all good? Might there be a downside? Are ill prepared students eroding the quality of the program? Perhaps harming the best and brightest? To find out, the Thomas B. Fordham Institute commissioned the Farkas Duffett Research Group to survey AP teachers in public high schools across the country. Perhaps not surprisingly, the AP program remains very popular with its teachers. But there are signs that the move toward “open door” access to AP is starting to cause concern. Read the report to learn more.

Jacques Steinberg:

A survey of more than 1,000 teachers of Advanced Placement courses in American high schools has found that more than half are concerned that the program’s effectiveness is being threatened as districts loosen restrictions on who can take such rigorous courses and as students flock to them to polish their résumés.

The study, by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, an educational research and advocacy organization, noted the sharp growth in the A.P. program’s popularity. The number of high school students who took at least one college-level A.P. course increased by 45 percent, to 1.6 million from 1.1 million, from the school year ended 2004 to that ended 2008.

The number of A.P. exams those students took — with hopes, in part, of gaining exemption from some college class work, depending on how well they scored — increased by 50 percent, to 2.7 million.>Dane County, WI High School AP course offering comparison.