If you have a high school student with college on their mind, chances are you are saving to pay for the myriad of standardized Advanced Placement (AP) tests they will need to take at the end of their classes. Each test, one for each subject, is $93. Students in U.S. Department of Defense Dependents Schools pay $123 per exam.
The AP attraction lies with credits which will lessen the time a student spends on introductory classes in college. There are about 30 AP classes currently offered to high school students.
Most of us remember when an AP class was considered something special—an occasional college prep class for college credit. But this is no longer the case. AP has evolved into the new norm of educational prowess! The more AP classes a student takes the higher their high school ranking and chances of getting into a good college.
A lot of us also remember when high school advanced classes were college track and did not cost anything. There is a debate surrounding tracking students.
Why College in High School?
With so many students feeling driven to take lots of AP classes, perhaps the question should be “Why are we pushing students to do college in high school?”
It also pays to check—some universities don’t honor AP. Or, they will only accept a limited number of AP classes. The trouble here is that most students don’t know which college they will be attending until the end of their senior year. So they take as many AP classes as they are led to believe they need to get into a good university.
Increased Costs for Low-Income Students
And take note. If you are the parent of a student from a low-income household, who has been depending on financial support to lower the cost of AP tests to $5-$15, I am sorry. The cost of an AP test is now $53 due to a written clause in the Every Student Succeeds Act.
In the past a federal grant program helped subsidize the cost of AP for those in need. But that is no longer the case. Some states might come up with the money, but other states will not. This means poorer students will not be able to take as many AP classes and get ranked as high as their wealthier student counterparts.
Paying for AP Test Practice
If you can afford it, your student will also feel they would benefit from practice manuals for the test which cost about $20-$50 per book. I’ve seen World History AP test preparatory books at about $60 and the Advanced Calculus manual is $146!
Lots of publishers have gotten in on AP prep. The books teach how to take tests and about the material on the test. And that’s a big problem. AP is all about test-taking. And there is also tutoring from Kaplan.
The College Board is the fat cat here. They have slyly privatized high school advanced classes. Think about it. Parents now pay for public schooling.
The All-Encompassing College Board
AP isn’t the only program the College Board promotes, of course. They sell lots of tests like the SAT, CLEP, PSAT/NMSQT, SPRINGBOARD, CSS Profile, PSAT 10, PSAT8/9, PowerFAIDS, ACCESS, all which are controversial in their own right.
They claim: We’re a mission-driven not-for-profit organization that connects students to college success. Not-for-profit? In 2014, a Business Insider report, and the College Board’s public 990 form, showed yearly revenues of more than $750 million.
And President Trump thinks our public schools are “flushed with cash.” No, Sir. It’s the College Board that’s taking home the bacon!
A consumer rights organization Americans for Educational Testing Reform (AETR) has criticized the College Board for its non-profit status.
But this blog post is just about AP. Why is AP necessary? Why do parents have to pay for any of this in a public school?
It Costs to Train Teachers
Another question is why does the state have to pay tax dollars to the College Board requiring teachers to take training sessions to teach AP? Shouldn’t teachers be qualified through university and state credentialing to already teach?
Why can’t teachers teach advanced material to those who need it? Why don’t teachers and schools make up, or choose, their own tests?
AP Has Many Critics
I’m not the only one noticing AP. See below for a list of just some of the articles over the years complaining about the program.
Fraudulent schemes come in all shapes and sizes. To work, they typically wear a patina of respectability. That’s the case with Advanced Placement courses, one of the great frauds currently perpetrated on American high-school students.
That’s a pretty strong claim, right? You bet. But why not be straightforward when discussing a scam the scale and audacity of which would raise Bernie Madoff’s eyebrows?
Students, Teachers and Public Schools Are Still Painted as Failures
While students jump through AP money hoops to prove they are smart, some argue the classes aren’t rigorous enough. Or, they claim that the College Board isn’t selective enough because so many students are taking AP classes.
So, the College Board profits, but students, teachers and public schools are still painted as failures—a favorite scheme of the school reformers to privatize schools. It would not work for them to say students and teachers were thriving.
President Trump and Betsy DeVos also repeatedly refer to public schools as the “status quo”. Well, if they really believe this, why aren’t they criticizing and investigating the College Board since they have so much control over American high schools? The College Board is connected to private and parochial schools too.
Why AP is Controversial
AP is controversial as a program because it:
- Focuses too much on teaching to the test and memorizing facts.
- Doesn’t encourage independent thinking.
- Separates students by tracking them.
- Is standardized. Students learn the same material.
- Demonstrates little improvement of student success in college.
- Doesn’t account for students who would succeed without the program.
- Crams too much material in a short time for students to learn.
- Uses students to make schools look good.
- Causes undue stress in ambitious teens who want to do well.
- Might mean students miss out on extracurricular activities.
- Doesn’t address the needs of students, especially gifted students.
- Might neglect science labs or projects in other classes.
- Is seen as an elitist program.
- Is expensive.
- There is a tremendous amount of homework.
- Is coursework privatization.
Currently, parents feel pressured to have their students in AP, and students feel anxious to pass those tests.
David Coleman is the CEO of the College Board. Yes, that David Coleman—the Common Core king. He is said to earn $550,000, with total compensation of nearly $750,000. Gaston Caperton, his predecessor, received a $1.3 million salary.
Why Not End AP?
AP has become entrenched in high schools across the country, and it would be difficult to get current high school students to give up AP. But parents of younger students might plan ahead and organize to end AP. They might address this before their school boards and push for change in the future.
In 2014, in Baltimore, parents and educators were demanding administrators be more upfront about the “demands” of AP classes.
If parents are concerned about losing college credit, perhaps they could work with universities to re-frame what alternatives they consider acceptable to college admissions.
This country got along for decades without students overdoing AP. There’s really no reason students need it, other than to make money for the College Board.
Berger, Joe. “Demoting Advanced Placement.” The New York Times. Oct. 4, 2006.
Break Out of the Race. Jumping Out of the Rat Race: AP Classes, Rankings, Testing and College Admissions. Online.
Gewertz, Catherine. “Schools Grapple With Fee Hikes for AP Exams.” Education Week. Jan. 17, 2017.
Hu, Winnie “Scarsdale Adjusts to Life Without Advanced Placement Courses.” The New York Times. Dec. 6, 2008.
MeServe, Jack. “The SAT May Have Been Changed to Help the College Board Maximize Revenue.” Business Insider. Mar. 7, 2014.
Tierny, John. “AP Classes Are a Scam.” The Atlantic. Oct 13, 2012.
Steinberg, Jacques. “Many Teachers in Advanced Placement Voice Concern at Its Rapid Growth. The New York Times. April 29, 2009.
Yilu, Zhao. “ High School Drops It’s A.P. Courses, And Colleges Don’t Seem to Mind. The New York Times. Feb. 1, 2002.