Begun in the 1950s to let gifted students undertake college-level work in high school, AP courses, in Mr. Sadler’s words, have since become “the juggernaut of high school education.” Growing at a rate of 9.3 percent a year in the past two decades, enrollment in AP courses well outpaces the 1 percent yearly increase in the number of students graduating from high school, the book says.
...some students elect to retake the AP course they took in high school by enrolling in an introductory-level course in the same subject in college.
In his study, Mr. Sadler and his research partner, Gerhard Sonnert, look more closely at the retakers in 55 randomly selected colleges across the country.
Their aim was to see whether students who took and passed high school AP courses had an edge over their college classmates in the same subject, after controlling for differences in students’ academic backgrounds or previous science coursework. (AP course-takers typically have more extensive science backgrounds and better grades than non-AP students.)
The answer, judging by the students’ grades in the introductory-level college classes, was yes. The former AP students didn’t ace the classes—their grades fell on average in the range of B to B-plus—but they did better in their chemistry, physics, and biology classes than peers without any AP experience.
That was not the case, though, for students who had previously failed an AP biology test; they fared no better in that subject in college.
In another study featured in the book, Mr. Sadler also applies some systematic analysis to the GPA-boosting “bonus points” that high schools often assign to AP-course grades. College-admissions officers also use similar methods to add weight to AP-course grades when comparing students’ grades.
To find out if the extra points were warranted, Mr. Sadler asked college students in 113 introductory biology, physics, and chemistry courses about the level of high school science courses they had taken and the grades they received in them. He then compared the results with professors’ reports of their students’ grades in those introductory science classes.
Mr. Sadler found that students who took honors or AP courses in high school science added an average of 2.4 grade points, on a 100-point scale, to their college science grades for each additional level of rigor. Based on that calculation, he figures that students who take honors courses ought to receive an extra half-point on a grade-point-average scale of 1 to 4, while AP courses ought to be worth an extra point, and an extra 2 points if students pass the exam.Book Trains Critical Eye on AP Program's Impact
By Debra Viadero
Published in Print: March 17, 2010, as Book Eyes Impact of AP Classes and Exams
A Critical Examination of the Advanced Placement Program
Edited by Philip M. Sadler, Gerhard Sonnert, Robert H. Tai, and Kristin Klopfenstein