During my four years in high school, I took five Advanced Placement (AP) classes. Advanced Placement is a program run by College Board, a non-profit organization that allows high school students to take college courses at their school. Students can earn college credit, but only if they receive a score their university considers passing.
Yes, by taking five AP classes, I am a semester and a half ahead compared to other freshmen. However, I strongly believe AP classes are one of the largest scams perpetrated on young, impressionable American highschool students.
According to College Board, AP classes are similar to university courses and help prepare students for classes when they go to college.
AP classes, although extremely difficult and exceedingly stressful, are nothing like college courses. Teachers spend most of the course instructing students how to write document-based essays in condensed amounts of time, which will help them prepare for the AP exam, but not for college.
AP writing does not allow students to use a text to emphasize their own beliefs or interests. College classes demand critical thinking, while AP courses focus on delivering information, rather than understanding it.
In college courses, your ability to receive credit for the course is not dependent on one single exam, but on a series of quizzes, homework, projects, and tests. AP classes focus more on teaching to a standardized test rather than teaching the material.
Teachers are forced to educate students how to study for the format of the questions and the writing rather than the actual material.
This is not the fault of the teachers but of College Board, which structures AP courses to be systematic rather than exciting and interesting for students.
Classes in high school are meant to offer a chance for students to explore different topics and interests – not for teaching them how to take a test.
Some students can strive in the classroom all year, but when it comes to the exam, they fall short and fail to receive a score their universities deem transferable. Some universities may only accept the highest score – a perfect 5.
In 2019, only 11.7% of the more than 100,000 students who took AP European History received a 5 on the exam in May, according to College Board.
So, what is a better alternative to AP classes that allow students to graduate university earlier?
Dual enrollment classes.
Dual enrollment classes allow high school students to take classes at a local community college, or even in their high school, and can potentially earn the student college credit if their university accepts it.
Unlike AP courses, dual enrollment classes do not have one singular exam students have to depend on to receive credit. Dual enrollment guarantees a student credit if they pass the class and their university accepts the transfer credit.
With AP courses, students have to rely on one single test to determine if their credit will transfer. Not only do dual enrollment courses provide college credit, they also provide students with a GPA and transcript.
It is not the fault of teachers that AP courses and exams are flawed. However, we need to be talking more about the flaws of the system because currently, students are not being prepared for college, but they are being prepared for an exam.
We should not be pretending the courses are perfect, because they are far from it.
Our education system needs serious revisions when it comes to standardized testing and AP courses need to be at the top of that list.