Taking (Too?) Many APs

Source: Education Next, Fall 2012

… today’s scramble for entry into top-tier colleges plus the premium placed (by multiple players) on taking and passing AP exams plus standardized-test-based accountability pressures emanating from government do not add up to an optimal environment for these high schools. Here they don’t raise standards as much as they standardize.

They press on students, parents, and teachers in ways that are plausibly said to discourage experimentation, risk-taking, unconventional thinking, unique courses, and individualized research, as well as pedagogical creativity and curricular innovation.

We spoke with frustrated teachers and exasperated administrators, well aware that they’re riding the back of an AP tiger from which it’s hard to dismount, especially for a public school that must weigh the priorities of parents, taxpayers, and voters.

We talked with highly motivated students, too, who were (as one young man put it) “exhausted” from carrying course loads that included as many as six AP classes a semester in pursuit of a high school transcript that would wow the admissions committees of elite universities.

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