Advanced Placement Courses On The Rise

By Staff

March 6, 2009

High schools throughout the country are reporting a marked increase in students enrolling in Advanced Placement courses as a way to cut higher education expenses and prepare for college.

The Arizona Republic reports that in 2008, 10,573 public high school students took at least one AP exam, compared to 5,720 students five years ago. Most enrolled in AP courses such as science, math, English and history.

The AP tests are graded on a scale of 1 to 5, and students earning 3 or above become eligible for some college credit. Some schools require either a 4 or 5 to earn credit. The tests are administered by the College Board, which offers 37 college-level courses and exams in 22 subjects. The exam costs $86, and some districts cover the exam fee for AP students.

According to Trevor Packer, vice president of the College Board, students who score a 3 or more are found to succeed better in college and graduate on time. In addition, they save money by not having to pay for freshman level courses. Moreover, the College Board website notes that taking AP courses can help students stand out in the college admissions process.

In Rochester, New York, the Democrat & Chronicle reports that a recent study indicates that more students are taking AP classes in the Gates Chili school district than in the past. For the 2007-8 school year, 227 students took at least one AP course, while 340 students enrolled this year. For the 2009-10 year, 703 students have registered.

"It's a school's responsibility to prepare and position students for a smooth transition into college by providing rigorous college-level courses," said Cynthia Rice, Gates Chili associate superintendant for instruction, in the Democrat & Chronicle. She noted that even those who don't pass still benefit from learning more.

But Tennessee's reports that while some high schools are seeing an increase in AP tests, others are noticing a sharp decline. Laurie Driver, the district's supervisor of testing and guidance, noted that many students who enroll in AP courses may not take the tests. Some students, she said, may not feel that they will earn at least a 3.

The test's cost may be an issue for other students. Driver noted that the state received a federal grant to pay test fees for students with low incomes who qualify for free or reduced-price lunches.

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