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Advanced Placement tests carry drawbacks amid great benefits

February 22, 2018

Because the Pathfinder staff vote of 25 respondents was significantly divided on the subject of Advanced Placement (AP) exams, with 60 percent agreeing that the AP tests are beneficial despite 40 percent agreeing that the College Board exploits students, a side-by-side comparison of opinions on this topic were composed for this editorial.

Advanced Placement classes establish excellence

For 118 years, the College Board has been providing advanced education for qualified students while they are still in high school. Through the administration of Advanced Placement (AP) tests and oversight of the classes that prepare students for them, the College Board has raised the ceiling for high school achievement and has made this level of rigor accessible internationally.

The biggest draw of AP exams is a figure that deserves all the publicity it receives; an AP exam costs $98 while the average 3 credit hour college class costs $594. That makes an AP test 16 percent of the cost of a college class, while still providing students with an opportunity to earn the same amount of credit. Four grueling hours at a time, students can ultimately save $19,000 on their overall college education over the course of their high school career.

Due to this college-level standard of the AP curriculum, students are held to an unyieldingly quick pace that pushes their learning to the highest level it can be. While students may be more comfortable with a slower pace set by a teacher in a regular honors class, Parkway’s mission is to make every student capable and confident, well-equipped to take on the world ahead of them, and by offering 25 AP classes at West High no student can settle for academic complacency.

For many students who wisely use their time in school, the need to study outside of school classes can be diminished due to the lower rigor of regular or honors courses. This can be problematic for students because it does not necessitate good study habits, and subsequently students are more likely to struggle in college. According to a study conducted by the Salam Noor of the University of Oregon, 63 percent of college dropouts cited academic disengagement and 71 percent of students cited absenteeism as reasons for their dropout, both of which are problems which stem from limited academic rigor.

West has done its students a great service by building its breadth of AP options; no student can be idle in their education at this level, and if they work hard in this challenging situation, it can pay off in the form of large savings for college. Beyond even that, AP classes build study habits and a work ethic that last far beyond a student’s high school days and help them step successfully into their futures. Success and achievements to be proud of come from beyond our comfort zones, and AP classes push us there.

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Advanced Placement classes embezzle education

For 118 years, College Board has owned somewhat of a monopoly on college admissions examinations. The only other organization in the United States that exists for this purpose is American College Test (ACT) incorporated. The College Board’s first widely-used test was the SAT, whose preparatory exam, the PSAT, is offered at West every year. After the SAT was introduced in 1926, AP tests followed in 1952 and both tests have only expanded with time; SAT now has individual subject tests and College Board offers over 30 AP tests. Through these tests, College Board, a listed non-profit organization, makes millions of dollars and pays hefty salaries to its board members.

A $783,076,642 revenue in a self-proclaimed not-for-profit organization simply doesn’t add up. From 2011-2012, College Board president Gaston Caperton so charitably limited his salary to a cool $1.5 million, reaping the benefits of middle class families taking a hit of up to $700 for a student to take AP tests. This glaring figure cannot be ignored, and casts College Board in a suspicious light. Are they really looking out for our education, or do they simply want our money?

In Missouri, public high schools can earn points on their annual state-issued performance report card for the number of students they have that get a “3” or higher on an AP exam. The state of Missouri is incentivizing schools to push all students enrolled in AP classes to take its corresponding AP test, regardless of whether that test will give them credit after high school. Even though 2,900 higher education institutions grant credit for AP examinations, there are still approximately 2,400 that do not do so. Students are pushed through the pipeline all the same, just to check the box on their school’s report card.

West, understandably, strongly encourages all of its students to try AP, with more AP classes replacing honors versions every year. Teachers’ tagline when registration rolls around is always “The test is worth a shot; it can only help you.” While the effort to heighten student education can be seen, the real benefactor is not the students; once students become upperclassmen, they are often taking four or five AP classes, each with an hour or more of homework per day, resulting in sleepless nights, high stress and anxiety—all so that they can sit through up to 20 hours of grueling examinations in May for a single number that may not even help their future. Some students handle this pressure well, but many are needlessly overworked for the sake of College Board’s profit and Parkway’s good reputation.

College Board’s money trail leads to nothing but questions and Missouri’s own rating systems give schools motives to mindlessly shove every pupil into an AP class in the hopes of another “3”. Meanwhile, schools that cannot afford to offer AP classes are being left further in the dust, risking loss of accreditation because their students cannot produce the test scores. College Board and Parkway’s perks are too suspicious to ignore; students become no more than statistics and dollars under College Board’s tyranny of tests.

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