Some colleges question AP credit

Students spend multiple semesters of their high school experience studying vigorously for AP exams. AP exams are an inexpensive way to obtain college credit in high school for passing an exam based on a college level class. However, some schools, like Dartmouth believe that the AP exams give too much credit. Starting with the class of 2018, Dartmouth will not be accepting AP credit to “test out” of their college classes. They will simply use them as a tool for placement into introductory level classes.

Former CF grad and Dartmouth student Sara Gabriele took AP classes while at Cedar Falls High School, and she recognizes some of the reasons why her school wants to stop accepting AP credit to replace her college courses.

“I think the reason Dartmouth decided to stop accepting AP credits is because they feel that the AP courses are not at par with the rigor of the courses here or that students who earned AP credits early in high school, for example, a sophomore taking AP Biology, may have forgotten it by the time he or she gets to college, and I think in some areas, they have a good basis for making this claim,” Gabriele said.

While Gabriele said she feels that her AP courses effectively prepared her for college, she understands the concern that not all students may be as prepared as they need to be for rigorous courses just by taking an AP exam.

“I have several friends taking calc here who are having a hard time doing well on the Dartmouth exams even though they had earned an AP 5 prior, same with biology and chemistry,” Gabrielle said.  “In my own experience, I took a placement examination during the school year and passed out of Psych 1. I’m happy I did this because I felt I got a really good foundation in Psych from my AP course, but many of my friends didn’t feel as prepared as I did and still opted to take the Intro course to make sure they got a solid foundation.”

Current senior Hannah Niemann is loaded up on AP courses in high school and wants more than just a solid foundation. “They should accept AP credit because if students are able to take college level classes and show the knowledge they have learned, they should be given due credit for their work,” Niemann said.

Niemann said she believes that anyone who scores high enough on the AP exam and puts forth all the effort deserves to get the chance to move past intro level college courses.

In fact, if it weren’t for the college credit, Niemann probably wouldn’t be taking many of the courses she currently is enrolled in. “Sure there are some that I would take, but I know that there are some AP courses that I am taking right now that I would not have taken if not for the AP credit,” Niemann said. “I really enjoy math, so I took that AP class because I wanted to, and the same goes for psychology, but I really only took them for the college credit.”

AP psychology teacher Charlie Blair-Broeker said that the standards AP sets effectively give students the credit they deserve despite the claim that colleges such as Dartmouth have made. “To get AP credit, you have to match the performance of college students who’ve taken the same class. It’s criterion reference. It’s not a group of people sitting down saying, ‘Kids ought to know this much or kids ought to know that much.’ Every five years they give the test to college students,” Blair-Broeker said. “They norm the test by looking at the performance of the high school kids who take the test, so you have to do roughly as well as college students who’ve earned an A to get a 5 on the test. You have to do roughly as well as college students who get a B to get a 4 on the test. So, because of that, because there’s evidence, good evidence that kids who have gone through the AP program have accomplished as much, they’ve learned as much, based on this test as college students, I think they deserve the credit.”

Dartmouth has made a claim that affects millions of high schoolers taking AP courses. Blair-Broeker stressed the need for Dartmouth to release their data. “What they have said is that 90 percent of the students who have earned 5’s and go to Dartmouth can’t pass a version of the final they use in their Intro Psych class,” Blair-Broeker said. “I’d really like to see the circumstances under which that test is given because it’s absolutely contradictory to the kind of data that the College Board collects. They’ve made an allegation about the program that affects a lot of people, everybody in an AP class. Actually not just in psychology; it tends to shake the foundation for all the AP courses, and if they’re going to go public with a statement like that, I think they owe it to people to really release the data that they’ve collected.”

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