Today’s announcement that the U.S. Department of Education awarded more than $21.5 million in grants to 43 states, including Georgia, to cover some of the fees charged to low-income students for taking Advanced Placement tests reminded me a question I wanted to ask.
When should high school students take AP classes?
I attended an education conference about 10 years ago where a panel of experts said AP classes should ideally be taken in a high school student’s junior and senior years. The panelists maintained that students who take AP classes earlier in high school don’t do as well on the AP exams, which are scored on a 1-5 scale. Most selective colleges will not give credit for an AP course if the score is not a 4 or 5.
A north Fulton student about to start high school told me he was enrolled in AP Human Geography. That seems to be the typical class taken by freshmen as it’s considered easier than most AP courses. You can read what students say about it here.
To confirm, I looked at a 2011 College Board report on which AP courses students took and when; 46,000 high school freshmen took AP Human Geography. The next highest tally for ninth grade was AP World History with 11,400 freshmen taking it. In comparison, 195 took music theory, which is considered a very tough course.
All total, 71,673 students took AP classes in the ninth grade.
But 42 percent of freshmen who took AP Human Geography earned a 1 on the exam, the equivalent of failing.
So, does it make sense to take AP classes that early?
By the way, Georgia is receiving $383,357 from the USDOE, which ought to help a lot of students cover part of the cost Advanced Placement exam.
Based on the anticipated number of test-takers and other factors, the grants under the US DOE Advanced Placement Test Fee Program are expected to be sufficient to pay up to $38 per Advanced Placement exam for as many as three exams per student. (That does not cover the full cost of the exams, which is $87.)
“Advanced Placement participation is an important element in creating a college-going culture in our high schools,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “AP courses help students develop the study skills, critical reasoning and habits of mind that prepare them for the transition to college. They give students — particularly first-generation college-goers — the confidence that they can successfully handle college-level work.”
–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog