Colleges' reliance on AP brings inequity


Having Your Say

March 30, 2009|By Tracy R. Rone

In a few weeks, students in Maryland and across the nation will be gearing up for a rite of spring: taking Advanced Placement exams. A lot rides on their success on these tests.

That's why it's disturbing that - although Maryland leads the nation in the percentage of its high school graduates who pass an AP test - there are such large disparities in AP pass rates and course offerings within and across school districts. Those disparities reflect the widespread patterns of education inequity and access that plague this nation.

African-American and Latino students and students from low-income families are less likely than other students to have access to AP courses, enroll in AP courses, take AP exams or pass AP exams. The issues of AP course offerings and even acceptance by competitive colleges and universities have emerged in debates about school equity and quality. Meanwhile, despite attempts to create greater equity in AP offerings within school districts and across school districts within states, students who attend schools in wealthier school districts still have greater options for enrolling in AP course offerings and are more likely to take and pass the AP exam.

At colleges and universities that accept passing scores on AP exams for college credit, it is not uncommon for students to enter their first year with enough college credit from having passing grades on AP exams to begin college with sophomore standing. This enables some students to complete college in three years, saving a year's tuition and associated college costs and potentially adding another year to lifetime earnings.

The College Board's Web site lists the cost per AP exam as $86, with a reduced fee for "extreme circumstances" of $56 per exam. But for many students, $86 or even $56 per exam is cost-prohibitive.

Colleges and universities have a choice in their admissions policies. They can focus on whether a student has completed a high school's more rigorous courses, and need not require AP courses and tests as evidence of high-level work. Such institutions should be commended for not supporting the College Board's money-making, inequity-fueling system.

Proponents of AP courses claim that they provide an opportunity for rigorous, intensive instruction in high school that better prepares students for success in college. Shouldn't all students have that opportunity - not just those for whom AP classes and tests are available and affordable?

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.