Dumbing Down the AP to Match the CCSS

Since their inception Advanced Placement, or AP, courses have been in high demand in high schools across the country.  The content and sequence of instruction in AP courses is designed by The College Board.  AP courses are supposed to be as rigorous and challenging as a college level course.  Students take AP exams on fixed dates across the nation and their scores determine whether they can get college credit for the courses they’ve taken.  In theory the AP should save parents of college bound children money as their children, assuming they score high enough on their AP exams, will enter college with courses already completed.

Unfortunately, the course requirements and sequence of instruction under the Common Core State Standards don’t align with the requirements for the College Board’s AP exams, so the AP exams and courses are being redesigned to reflect the Common Core. According to The College Board, “The College Board is removing extraneous details from the AP course requirements and making AP classes less about simple memorization and more about critical thinking and synthesizing information. The AP is about taking a college course and giving a recipe for students.”

Thus far The College Board has revamped the AP Biology, Latin and Spanish Literature exams.  They are currently revamping the AP Chemistry and Spanish Language exams.

Math, as has become all too predictable, is proving to be difficult to align, particularly AP Calculus.  “AP Calculus is in conflict with the Common Core. It lies outside the sequence of the Common Core because of the fear that it may unnecessarily rush students into advanced math classes for which they are not prepared”, according to Trevor Packer, senior vice president of the College Board’s Advanced Placement Program.

The College Board has a suggestion here for school divisions – stop teaching Calculus.  Offer AP Statistics or Computer Science instead.  The College Board has plans to replace AP Calculus with AP Algebra, but those plans are tentative.

Virginia, thus far, has chosen not to fully participate in the CCSS, though we have aligned our content standards with the CCSS and have contract Pearson Education to develop, administer, and evaluate our state exams, the SOL exams.  This move by The College Board to align the AP with the CCSS means Virginia students will have no choice but to follow the CCSS.  It also means that students hoping to be Engineers, who must take Calculus in high school, will have no options for taking Calculus other than to attend a local community college on their own during their junior or senior year.


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