Advanced Placement: Critical Component of Overall Reform

In an Associated Press article published in the Boston Globe, education writer Justin Pope contends that Advanced Placement (AP) programs should be accompanied by results-oriented and deliberate strategies to bring about successful reform for student achievement. When AP courses are “helicopter-dropped” into schools as a sole means to reform, the results may not be as effective as intended.

“Schools that are using AP in a very deliberate way to change the culture, there’s something very powerful there,” said Trevor Packer, the Senior Vice President of College Board which manages the AP program. But, as the article states, it cannot be used as a “shortcut to avoid the hard foundational work students need.”

A+ College Ready (A+CR), a division of A+ Education Partnership, currently works with four cohorts of 64 public high schools to strategically implement successful AP courses in mathematics, science and English. From 2008-2011, A+CR schools increased passing scores by 165%, compared to the national average of 22% and state average of 68% in the same time period.

A+CR schools are encouraged to open access to AP courses to historically under-served students and program schools. Those who have participated have seen encouraging and dramatic successes as a result of this collaborative effort. In fact, the qualifying scores for minority students increased by 280% in the same comparative time period.

The value and credibility of AP courses over the initiative’s 60-plus year history has grown rapidly, as the Boston Globe article states, and has become a “gold standard.” Unlike the “honors” courses, they require external validation through nationally established standards. The article also states that Newsweek uses graduates’ AP scores as “the sole factor for inclusion on its annual list of ‘Best American High Schools’”.

In Alabama, A+CR has an impact on approximately 13,000 students in public schools who have recently taken AP exams after a year of rigorous preparation and significant support for students and teachers.

A+CR is poised to add another cohort of schools, expanding its impact to even more Alabama students in 2012-13.

“AP courses are an integral part of overall reform, which additionally requires the successful shift in the mindset of school leaders, teachers, parents and students,” explained Mary Boehm, A+CR executive director. “When everyone raises the achievement expectation and supports more challenging and rigorous classrooms, we help every student reach their full academic potential.”

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