Advanced Placement

There is a tremendous disparity across the district in the availability of AP courses and thus accessibility to AP exams, and, by extension, the opportunity to earn college credit. The explanation is that there is a debate about the efficacy of the program with individual high schools reaching different conclusions. I come down on the side of the AP. Whether you agree on the merits, it’s still of concern that there is such wide variability across district high schools. Who should decide?

My West HS junior took an AP English Language exam today out at Promega in Fitchburg. As a threshold matter, the exam process was very inefficient, to wit, students were required to arrive at 7:15 am for a three hour exam to begin at 8 am, and were not let out until 12:05 pm, i.e., nearly five hours due to lost or unlabelled papers, etc. Several students were enrolled to take the French AP set to begin at 12:00 pm back at Edgewood–obviously they were late, and probably exhausted.
But those glitches aside, consider the wide disparity in representation across MMSD. There were 148 area students taking the test, about twelve from West, 20 from LaFollette, a small number from East and more than sixty from Memorial. (The remainder were from suburban schools.) The difference is due almost entirely to Memorial’s embrace of the AP program. Memorial’s AP students routinely graduate with between 30 and 45 AP credits. Only a handful of West students take more than one or maybe two tests, i.e., five or ten credits, due in large measure to the dearth of AP courses offered.
There are several implications, first, credit and, by extension, college placement and possible tuition savings; and second, if a student successfully takes AP exams before their senior year, the advantage of this information in the admission process. (AP awards honors to those with high scores on three or more AP exams, for instance.)
Those opposed to the AP employ the “teaching to the test” argument; they don’t like an AP-dictated curriculum. Plus teachers are required to get certified by the AP which requires a commitment of extra time and energy. The flip side is that the program sets a uniform, consisten standard and offers the various advantages I mentioned above.
The bottom line—how do folks feel about the individual high schools having such widely disparate approaches to this program? Where should that decision be made?