It’s Not About Tests. It’s About Rigorous Curricula

Advanced (AP) Placement TestAlex Mallory has a piece over at the Huffington Post titled, “The Real Reason Private Schools Drop AP Tests.”

His argument is nice, but everything in it is premised on time, money and resources that most schools don’t have.

Of course a school, or district (does Mallory know about public school districts?) can write their own curricula. They all can, again, if they have the time, money, and expertise to dedicate to the multi-year process of developing a sound, thoroughly examined, and tested, curriculum.

Mallory works hard to pooh pooh AP tests but he doesn’t seem to understand the single biggest reason schools use them (it’s the same reason schools use the IB). The Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate programs provide developed, well thought-out, reasonably respected curricula that are already done.

Teachers, schools, and school districts- except for the richest (admittedly Mallory’s audience) don’t have the time or resources to write their own curricula. The most important thing undergirding a school’s use of an AP or IB curriculum is that each system, AP or IB, provides quality plan/curriculum that the district/school doesn’t have to develop from scratch.

Mallory harps on the declining recognition of AP for academic credit, but focusing on possibly not receiving collegiate credit after taking the course and sitting for the examination misses the point. The credit is only a piece of the larger process. The college credit is nice for the kids who get it but that’s not what drives schools, students and families to choose AP classes. Quality and rigor drive opting to take and AP class.

Mallory reaches, then, tries to explain that without AP courses students and teachers become free to produce richer college applications.

“…The schools rejecting AP classes have finally acted on what they had recognized for a long time: AP not only restricts curricula that is vastly superior when decided by teachers in the classroom, but is also a hindrance to submitting a top-notch college application by draining too much valuable time from studying for the SAT and preparing for other courses.”(HP)

This statement is just plain wrong in light of the fact that the single most important thing that liberal arts colleges consider when reading application is quality/rigor of course load. AP courses signify a standard of rigor that is accepted, measured, and followed over time. The course frameworks are developed around professionally accepted knowledge and understanding in each course/test field. If a school rejects the AP or any other well known measurable, affordable curricula, it’s the kind of school that has the resources to explain themselves. Most schools that I know can’t afford to do this.

He also argues for the efficacy and primacy of one test, the SAT over the other, AP. AP courses take to much time from preparing for the SAT. Huh?

Here’s the solution: TAKE DIFFICULT, CHALLENGING COURSES. Don’t get hung-up on the tests.

Always take the most challenging course load that you can take. Come college admission time, consideration and admittance grow out of a student’s rigor/quality of course load.

At virtually every school with some degree of selectivity in admission, the single most influential piece of the admission puzzle is quality of courses that the student has taken and how he/she has done in them. This isn’t to say that test scores don’t count only to encourage you to study and recognize the role in the admission equation.

Parents encourage and push your students to take the most difficult course load they can handle. Students, set aside the urge to coast and be comfortable. Fighting, working and growing through a challenging curriculum in high school provides the best preparation for college and, in most cases and places, this means AP courses.

There’s no doubt in my mind that the Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate programs aren’t going anywhere any time soon.

Photo credit: Creations Look Divine via Creative Commons

Brian Fisher

A product of both private and public education, Brian Fisher served as a teacher, coach, dorm parent, and administrator at three different boarding schools. Brian also fills the role of Director of Development at Wolfeboro, The Summer Boarding School, in NH along with being a partner at AdmissionsQuest.

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