Advanced placement classes topple

story by collyn taylor and michaela baker

Large gyms packed with students, filled with the turning of pages and the scribble of pencils may be a dwindling sight as Dartmouth University has discontinued giving credit for Advanced Placement (AP) courses.

AP courses, offered through College Board, are courses that have a standardized test in May and if a student earns a three, four, or five, (s)he earns certain college credits.

Dutch Fork currently offers 22 AP courses, ranging from Calculus to Human Geography, all of which are designed to give students a unique learning environment that will help students succeed in college, according to College Board.

“They test a student’s ability to think critically and read and write on a college level. They also prepare students for college life because in college every course is an AP course, so might as well enjoy the experience and practice of that now,” Academic Gifted Program coordinator Joe Landreneau said. “The only downside to an AP exam is an all or nothing, you pass or you don’t pass and it determines if you get college credit or not. The positives far outweigh the negatives.”

With the Dartmouth decision being handed down, it strongly affects how students decide whether or not to enroll in higher-level classes.

“I would not take an AP class if the credit did not count because it would be pointless to have that much work without any reason,” freshman Anna Wolverton said.

While students, like Anna, wouldn’t take a more rigorous course without more benefits, Landreneau would still want to teach his AP Language and Composition class because he sees more than just college credit.

“Absolutely [I would teach an AP course still]. The AP course is not about college credit, it’s about being able to read, write, think on a college level,” Landreneau said. “That’s ultimately what my goal is to do, is to prepare these kids to read, write, think on a collegiate level. If they pass the exam wonderful, but if they don’t, they are still being prepared for the college experience.”

AP teachers in subjects other than English also sees the advantage of having AP courses; even without college credit.

“Yes, the students receive an experience that is similar to college. So even if there is no credit there is still experience,” AP history teacher Demetra Vastis said. “I really like teaching AP Human Geography and AP World so I would continue.”

Dartmouth’s decision came down as a result of internal studies that showed no correlation to passing an AP course to having knowledge of the material.  For teachers at Dutch Fork, that is not the only reason that they believe Dartmouth decided to stop handing out college credit.

“It’s all about money. The AP programs cause students to come into college with lots of credits already, which means that they don’t stay in college for a longer time which means they’re going to lose more money.  It is just a money issue,” Landreneau said.

Anna sees the reasoning behind the Dartmouth claim, because AP classes only “shows partly the grasp of knowledge of the subject.”

AP classes, according to college board, teach students skills and habits needed to be successful in college.

“On the AP level the students receives a good experience in writing essays,” Vastis said. “As a history major my tests were based on essays so being in an AP class will help students prepare for college.”

For a nationally ranked AP program like Dutch Fork, who has AP courses in every subject, it is hard to see the AP classes going anywhere, even with the verdict issued by Dartmouth.

“I don’t think that its going to have much of an impact at all.  I don’t see it having a big impact there.  Universities know that if you pass an AP course, there is pretty much no course in college you cannot pass.  It’s been around for over 50 years,” Landreneau said. “Courses continue to grow and i don’t see it slowing down anytime soon, especially with virtual learning and being able to earn credit that way, I don’t see it dwindling anytime soon.  So this Dartmouth decision will become a non-factor.”

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