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How AP and IB mess up college enrollment

Whiteflame128, a participant in my Admissions 101 discussion group, described what happened when he graduated from a Fairfax County high school and showed up for college enrollment with an entire freshman year's worth of credit from Advanced Placement courses and tests. "My advisor had absolutely no idea what to do with my schedule at orientation," he said.

Many students have encountered this problem, some of them in just the last few weeks in this enrollment season. All those extra credits, from AP or International Baccalaureate, don't fit easily into the standard college schedule. They force newcomers to compete with second-year students for limited space in second-year courses. They aggravate the need to take less favored courses just to maintain full-time status. They waste time and money. What do to about this is hard to figure out. Most of the colleges seem to throw up their hands.

Admissions 101 participant grcxx3 said "my son and I were just caught off-guard about how difficult it would be to schedule classes for that first year." Grcxxe said the AP, IB or local college dual enrollment her son took in high school meant he was "coming in with 18-plus hours of credit, much of which [could exempt him from] common freshman classes (like freshman English) and basic general ed classes that are often taken during the first year"

"At my large public research university," said Admissions 101 participant bluewater3, "almost all of the students end up graduating with excess credits. Sometimes this is their own doing--they change majors or take an extra class because they really want to. Often, it is because for some reason or other they can't take the course they need, but have to sign up for something to keep their full-time status whether it counts toward their degree or not."

Another participant, amstphd, teaches at a college and has seen the unintended consequences of AP and IB: "First, the tests in those courses don't cover the same content as [college] placement tests. English placement tests require grammar; math placement tests require computation. AP and IB classes don't stress this content, and some students were surprised when they didn't test out of the course. Students who do test out may arrive at college expecting to start second semester courses in September. That's not what colleges expect. They offer some sections of spring courses in fall semester, but they don't schedule many and the seats often go to students who were enrolled in the previous spring."

Circumstances other than AP or IB credits also complicate the process. Participant mhoust said: "When I graduated with my B.S. I had enough extra credits that I had the equivalent of a Master's degree. This was a result of taking years of night time classes while on active duty.

"Each time I was transferred to a new base, I had to completely revise my major, and transfer credits to a new school, all because I wasn't 'close enough' to my degree to be able to finish it off with one school. It wasn't until I was stationed in Okinawa for three years that I was in one place long enough for the University of Maryland to finally award it to me. The higher education system in America is still broken. People achieve their degrees and education in spite of the system, not because of it."

Participant edgefield1 offered this metaphor:

Suppose you go to a Mercedes dealership. The salesman lets you test drive the car, you like it, and you plunk down $50,000 for it.

You come back the next day to pick up your new car, but the salesman tells you, "Sorry someone else is driving it now. Why don't you drive this Hyundai until the other guy is finished?"

How would you react? How long would this dealer stay in business?

But this is exactly what the "institutions of higher education" are doing, and you sit there and take it.

"It's OK to take completely useless courses for a year since there are so many fraternity parties to go to and so many road trips to take." (especially if daddy or Sallie Mae is paying the bill.)

I'm angry that my kid is having to take a summer school chemistry class to graduate on time despite coming in with a whole year of credit. I'm also angry that the promised van from campus to civilization and campus activities on weekends ("No, this is definitely not a campus where everyone goes home on the weekend.") never materialized and they essentially shut down the health center once they had my tuition checks (which get bigger every year).

Who's watching these charlatans? What business raises its price 10% and gives less service every year?

And yet, all that confusion and uncertainty appeal to some undergraduates. Whiteflame12 liked being forced out of a comfort zone. "Partly because I had so many hours, I graduated a quarter early," the participant said. "But in the meantime, I made a point to take a lot of courses that didn't count toward my degree. Do I think they were unnecessary? Not at all. Very few of them were courses I went into college expecting to take, but I'm glad I took every single one of them. Now that I'm a graduate student I miss the freedom to take such a wide array of courses. I feel a little stifled, restricting myself to my department and my major field."

Higher education experts have pointed out that enrollment difficulties may be a factor in some low-income students dropping out. The failure to get the courses they need, and the expense of lengthening one's stay in college, become too frustrating. A few colleges say they have studied which courses are oversubscribed and added more sections to solve the problem. As college continues to grow in importance in American life, I hope more schools take the problem seriously.

Read Jay's blog every day, and follow all of The Post's Education coverage on Twitter, Facebook and our Education Web page.

By Jay Mathews  | September 3, 2010; 5:30 AM ET
Categories:  Trends  | Tags:  AP and IB complicate college scheduling, colleges not used to freshmen arriving with so many AP credit, second year courses not ready for them  
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Posted by: rothwinkle3 | September 3, 2010 6:28 AM | Report abuse

Not all schools are like this. Perhaps these kids and their parents should have done a bit more research on the schools they applied to before making a decision. I know people who had enough credit to enter as sophomores and were able to at even Ivy League schools. Or even better, opt out of the intro courses to take more advanced courses. I wonder if this is really a problem at many schools or its just some schools and you're hearing about it. Would be helpful to know what schools are not offering the credit or appropriate placement so that kids with AP and IP credits can avoid those places.

Posted by: commentator3 | September 3, 2010 6:46 AM | Report abuse

Yeah, sure - toss me in that briar patch. The IB program did wondrous things for my daughter, and put into motion the events that led her to her dream job as a historian in Southern California (we live in northern Virginia). How? Because the full IB program not only prepared her extremely well for college, it let her take more undergraduate courses in her areas of interest. This led to her being able to specialize even more at the graduate school of her choice. Which led, finally, to her dream job.
This isn't the rooster claiming credit for the sun rising. The IB program taught her how to learn, fulfilled most Freshman year requirements so she could use that year more wisely, and gave her patterns of thought and work habits that help her succeed. Nothing false about it. Her success does indeed come from her IB experience.
Complaints that one has learned too much are akin to complaining that the gold one carries is too heavy. Don't complain about the treasure you've been given - use it instead. If you use the extra time provided wisely, what IB (and AP) give you is the freedom to explore in the best place for it - college. And then to take on the world and control it for your purposes.
And somehow this is a problem? Don't be silly.

Posted by: LoveIB | September 3, 2010 7:39 AM | Report abuse

Whose side are you on Jay. I could not disagree more. My best friend and college roommate graduated with a triple major in 4 years, including two years of summer classes, because he loaded up on AP classes in high school. With a 4.0 GPA I might add, so he might be at the bright end of this bell curve.

Posted by: biffgrifftheoneandonly | September 3, 2010 10:00 AM | Report abuse

for biffgrifftheoneandonly---I am obviously very supportive of AP and IB, but my obligation as a journalist is to always question my own views when i see contrary evidence, and give that other point of view some respect and space. I like yr comments, and LoveIB's

Posted by: Jay Mathews | September 3, 2010 11:01 AM | Report abuse

I entered a small, private liberal arts college with 18 AP credits -- i.e., enough for a semester and change.

I ended up graduating with a double major and a double minor (one of which because I could start at the 300 level in a foreign language, so I didn't even have to beat myself up to get it in) in 3.5 years. The leftover tuition money is going to finance my going to night school to get my Master's.

Posted by: | September 3, 2010 11:02 AM | Report abuse

I was a student advisor at my undergrad college, and my job was to help freshman make the transition to college, be a T.A for their freshmen seminar section, work in tandem with their academic advisor, and basically be on-call for the inevitable freak-outs (happens to the best of us).

And I can't tell you how many kids would come in with a load of AP credits and then be completely at a loss on how to handle sophomore-level courses. They simply were not adequately prepared to handle the courseloads and expectations that went along with true college-level classes. Some of the things we went over in Freshman seminar were how to read a course syllabus, making use of the research librarians, stuff they simply don't teach in high school. And yet, I'd have kids complaining to me that they shouldn't have to take seminar because they have sophomore standing. These were usually the kids who were in danger of failing at least one class because they didn't read the syllabus or didn't know how to juggle the huge reading demands for each class, you get the idea.

I'm all for challenging students in school. I would have loved to have had more challenging classes (AP and even honors was not open to all back when I was in MCPS). But, in my experience, AP isn't doing kids a favor by giving them a false sense of security. At least at my institution, a very small place, those intro classes were not only an introduction to the subject, but an introduction to the expectations and rigors of college.

Posted by: RedBirdie | September 3, 2010 11:50 AM | Report abuse

"What business raises its price 10% and gives less service every year?"


Health insurance companies. Thank God someone is finally getting around to regulating them, so that they can't kick you off your policy when you need them the most.

Posted by: Eleiana | September 3, 2010 11:56 AM | Report abuse

Perhaps if students are arriving at campus with knowledge that the colleges recognize as valuable but which messes up the administration's classifications, the colleges need to be a bit more flexible in their classifications. Maybe there shouldn't be "first-semester freshmen," "second-semester sophomores," etc., just students with a certain number of credits or students who need to take or test out of certain courses--composition, for example--when first enrolled. After all, assuming speech and phys ed are necessary for a well-educated person (a proposal I am prepared to debate, at least as they were taught at my college), does it matter whether anyone takes them the first semester or the last?

Posted by: sideswiththekids | September 3, 2010 1:02 PM | Report abuse

Perhaps if students are arriving at campus with knowledge that the colleges recognize as valuable but which messes up the administration's classifications, the colleges need to be a bit more flexible in their classifications. Maybe there shouldn't be "first-semester freshmen," "second-semester sophomores," etc., just students with a certain number of credits or students who need to take or test out of certain courses when first enrolled. I can see that the college may want to be certain all students can write competently, for example, so either taking a composition course or demonstrating your proficiency through a test or a course in another college (for transfer students) could be required of all entering students. But even if a college can make a case for requiring phys ed, or for requiring liberal arts majors to take laboratory sciences, these requirements could be taken at any time. Requirements for majors might need to be taken at certain times just to get all the pre-requisites taken in time, and you would still need x number of credits to graduate. But do the terms freshman, sophomore, etc., have any meaning with so many students taking more than four years to get through college?

Posted by: sideswiththekids | September 3, 2010 1:12 PM | Report abuse

Let's be realistic. "More challenging" is the most often heard reason for taking AP or IB, but I suspect that a great many parents and students see it as less time in college, less money spent for tuition and books. I'm not entirely sure that's what the College Board had in mind in bringing out its AP product line.

Posted by: amstphd | September 3, 2010 1:28 PM | Report abuse

for RedBirdie and amstphd---Good points. I am pleased to see that very few students use their AP or IB credits to graduate from college in less than 4 years. I think that is a waste of a golden opportunity---the only chance many of us have in our lives to think about the world and where we want to be in it. My support for AP and IB is based mostly on the power those courses and tests have to make high school a challenging and intellectually strengthening experience, which in most cases these days it is not. I also like the fact that it makes students better able to appreciate and deal with what they get in college, but I don't think you need to cut the time short as a consequence, unless the family finances make that necessary.

Posted by: Jay Mathews | September 3, 2010 2:47 PM | Report abuse

The question really should be when did the freshmen classes in colleges and universities become so degraded that they could be simply taught in high schools.

Previously in public colleges and public universities the freshmen classes were the classes that indicated whether a student should be in college or not. Those who could not maintain a 2.0 average lost their matriculation.

Apparently these courses are now so watered down that they can be taught in high school.

Posted by: bsallamack | September 3, 2010 2:53 PM | Report abuse

If a student's main motivation in taking AP or IB courses is to take earn college credit, then he/she should research how schools reward credit. From personal experience--I graduated from high school in the 2003, many school websites describe how credit or placement is rewarded. Often, such information is provided in the admission section. (I'm sure that in the last seven years, the number of schools and the amount of information posted on school websites has only increased.) Also, I was a tour guide in college, and our admissions office created handouts with the requisite AP/IB scores for placement and credit. It is quite possible that with a little bit of research,a high school student could apply to schools, where maximum credit would be awarded (so that the student could essentially finish college with as few terms possible on a college campus).

However, as someone who entered with twenty-something credits, I'm happy that I spent the traditional four years in school. Entering with so many credits provided me with flexibility that other freshmen didn't have.I was able to start on mid-level courses for one of my majors during my freshman year. I double majored, and while my college didn't allow two majors and a minor, I had enough credits in a third department for a minor. Most importantly,I took a variety of classes outside of my majors just because they interested me, including a semester abroad that did not contribute to completing either major. It was wonderful.

Also, I agree with the comments about the jump from AP to non-introductory courses. Even if you come from a well-to-do school district like FCPS (like I did), you can benefit from taking introductory courses in college. Many introductory courses are much harder than their AP counterparts; the professors don't teach to the test. Plus, it's good to experience learning introductory material over the course of a term and not a school year. (There's much more reading in college.) Also, it's worth mentioning that in some departments, even the highest AP or IB score means little. For example, at my college, if you were planning to major in physical science, you needed to take biology with lab at the school.

Posted by: DCgalnSeattle | September 3, 2010 4:01 PM | Report abuse

When I was in high school 25 plus years ago, IB hadn't been invented and I was denied access to AP classes. I was far more interested in the subject material than the college credit. However, the school counselor that ran the school told my parents that only the "smart kids" could be allowed in AP classes, and I didn't qualify. I look back and laugh when I recall our "valedictorian" flunked out of college after one semester, yet I managed to graduate in 4 years. Hmmm.

Posted by: kodonivan | September 3, 2010 5:02 PM | Report abuse

My support for AP and IB is based mostly on the power those courses and tests have to make high school a challenging and intellectually strengthening experience, which in most cases these days it is not.

Posted by: Jay Mathews
Why on earth should a public school have to pay an outside organization to develop a more advanced course for high schools?

If you have the teachers that can teach advanced courses then these teachers can develop their own courses.

Colleges and universities do not pay outside organizations so that adjunct instructors can teach a course.

When did it become necessary in America for public schools to pay outside organizations to do something that the public school should be fully capable of doing on its own?

Posted by: bsallamack | September 3, 2010 6:21 PM | Report abuse

I'm with bsallamack when s/he says: "Why on earth should a public school have to pay an outside organization to develop a more advanced course for high schools?

If you have the teachers that can teach advanced courses then these teachers can develop their own courses.

Colleges and universities do not pay outside organizations so that adjunct instructors can teach a course.

When did it become necessary in America for public schools to pay outside organizations to do something that the public school should be fully capable of doing on its own?"

This is because you need the UN influence to spread the globalist agenda. And you need to give them your tax dollars too while you hand over your kids' minds.

Posted by: username | September 3, 2010 6:46 PM | Report abuse

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Posted by: cadynhenry04 | September 4, 2010 2:25 AM | Report abuse

I found the opposite to be true. I had enough credits to ign up ahead of other freshman in my first semester so i got all the classes I wanted. It does help to know what your major is going in, and mine was a double major, which provided me with more choices.

Posted by: jaygatsby27 | September 4, 2010 8:10 AM | Report abuse

The universities have created this dilemma by fueling the demand for AP and IB courses as a differentiator in admissions. If they don't consider advanced high school courses as the equivalent or compatible with their curricula, then be honest with the students and parents. These courses might get you in, but they won't get you far.

Posted by: gf21 | September 4, 2010 9:01 AM | Report abuse

Why on earth should a public school have to pay an outside organization to develop a more advanced course for high schools?

If you have the teachers that can teach advanced courses then these teachers can develop their own courses.


As an AP teacher, I can assure you that my course is developed by me and me alone. College Board does not prescribe the content of an AP course (though they do approve my syllabus to ensure its quality) they simply write the exam my students must pass if they wish to become eligible for college credit.

For what it's worth, I took enough AP courses in high school myself to technically be considered a sophomore when I entered college. My university (a large research institution) never had problems accommodating my course schedule because they had plenty of experience working with students who were in my situation. This was in the late '90s.

As a believer in the AP program, I'm more than a little confused as to why so many universities still struggle with students who sought out the most challenging classes their high schools had to offer. The AP program has been in existence for over 30 years--how much longer do universities need to figure out how to accommodate these kids?

Posted by: cmerry | September 4, 2010 9:09 AM | Report abuse

Jay is right that these problems exist at some colleges, but I don't see the argument he's making as "AP/IB courses are bad and shouldn't be taken." Rather, the point I take away from this piece is that colleges need to do things a bit differently to accommodate students coming in with AP/IB credits.

For example, they could gather data on their incoming freshman class to determine how many students will likely place out of freshman English, etc.

They could then adjust their fall semester course offering accordingly.

Also, colleges could create sophomore/2nd semester courses specifically for these students so that they are given a proper introduction to college coursework along with advanced material.

The problems Jay describes are not inevitable. There are common sense solutions.

Posted by: hainish | September 4, 2010 9:49 AM | Report abuse

Great discussion Jay and as a parent with a soon-to-be high schooler, I appreciate your views and those of your readers. I must, however, disagree with the posters who insinuate that the IB program is part of some globalist UN agenda. I saw the program in action in the french schools when we lived overseas and I see it in action here in Fairfax County. It's a terrific program - especially for kids who love foreign languages, history and literature. I'm no globalist. But I sure can appreciate that the IB program - and AP as well - both prepare our young people for a world that is far different than when I was a teen!

Posted by: abcxyz2 | September 4, 2010 9:56 AM | Report abuse

I would echo and summarize several suggestions already made.
First, it is incumbent on prospective students to very thoroughly read the Undergraduate Bulletin. It is a legal contract and avoids a lot of problems later on. Secondly, the student should also look at a typical semester course offering schedule. Many times catalogs list great courses, but they are rarely offered in the master schedule. Third, many undergraduate advisors are clueless. Talk to some trusted upperclassmen or counselors before making an appointment with your assigned advisor. Go in with a plan already made. General distribution and major requirements are explained in detail in the Undergraduate Bulletin. Fourth, have documentation of credits earned, transcripts, AP Scores with you to present to your advisor. Finally, don't necessarily take no for an answer. If you are denied credit or placement by an advisor, you can always appeal to a dean or chairperson.

Posted by: buckbuck11 | September 4, 2010 11:42 AM | Report abuse

Perhaps it's time for colleges to introduce three-year degree programs.
Maybe also outsource freshman year, for those that need it, to community colleges or online programs. Some colleges are already offering a third-party online course for many of these college 101 / AP courses.

These community colleges may be able offer these programs better from the perspectives of their remedial English, math and language programs.

Granted this goes against contemporary education thinking. You know where kids have half-day ESOL alongside regular classes instead of stopping to prepare them adequately for the next step.

Posted by: cprferry | September 4, 2010 2:44 PM | Report abuse

This seems to be a problem of students and parents not checking the college's policy on IB/AP credits first. Some make it easy to skip a term or a year, others will allow you to move ahead, but still require 4 full years.

For many students, costs put huge pressures to try to finish college early, which is understandable, but can hurt the overall college education experience.

But, for the students who complained about having to take extra courses outside their major just to fill up courses to complete their time, either the college they are at doesn't have many interesting courses, or more likely, the student isn't curious or creative enough to find interests outside their narrow area of study. The chance to take great elective courses on wide-ranging interests is one of the great gifts of university education, and one that students are not likely to get ever again in their lives. It's sad to think of so many who don't realize they are losing out on this rare opportunity.

Posted by: rbrb1 | September 4, 2010 4:33 PM | Report abuse

Hey bright folks continue the A P I B adventure. Course work like this deepens your background. Don't worry about bureaucratic placements. Is it really that bad if you take seemly similar courses but with different content? The degree is not going to matter that much, but your knowledge will. So folks invest heavily in high school. Learn a variety of subjects including the trades. Learn a foreign language maybe using outside courses or tapes. Ban the boxes. Build your potential.

Posted by: peterroach | September 4, 2010 6:01 PM | Report abuse

A particular course of study is usually plotted out by the offering department. If the department does not have a large major population, the bulk of their teaching resources will go towards supporting the general education requirements of the college. This often means that the advanced courses in the subject cannot be offered whenever but instead must be offered every other semester or even every other year. If you plan to join a particular study program, you should make an effort to speak with the faculty in that department, to find out what issues there may be to come in one semester or one year advanced. The freshman adviser assigned to you may or may not have any idea about the program in a particular department.

Posted by: Chungateach | September 4, 2010 6:27 PM | Report abuse

Underlying this discussion is an obsolete assumption: undergraduate education must take four years. Many years ago, I went into college with sophomore status, although, with the manual grading of the time, I didn't know it until the middle of my "freshman" year. Nevertheless, it wouldn't have helped my then-major in chemistry, because chemistry, except in very unusual cases, had a four-year sequence. Physics was worse. Any acceleration absolutely required having passed calculus, which was rare in the 1960s.

So, on the one hand, in some science and engineering courses, the material is sufficiently sequential that it may take four years -- sometimes five -- for the core content. Architecture and pharmacy have gone to five.

At the other end of life, the admission system overemphasizes "introductory" courses and has great difficulty with solid life experience (i.e., even including scholarly publication). I'm considering a second-career nursing program, and certainly see the value of the hands-on clinical skills. The academic departments, however, are confused about my offer either to test out of the preclinical sciences courses, or even teach them under observation. The history people offering a semester introduction don't know quite what to do with a "student" who has written, at book length, on the subject, and had direct experience in staff and engineering roles during the war.

I am puzzled, however, by the apparent steady drop in research reading and writing skills. When current college students are good, they are very good, but when they are bad, they are horrid. With some peripheral involvement I have with academia, I see even advanced undergraduates struggling with term papers, on subjects where I could write a solid paper in a few days. Yes, I'm faster than when I was in high school, but I had some incredibly valuable library science and research methods enrichment courses around the 10th grade.

Posted by: HCBerkowitz | September 4, 2010 7:44 PM | Report abuse

"I am puzzled, however, by the apparent steady drop in research reading and writing skills. When current college students are good, they are very good, but when they are bad, they are horrid."

Spot on.

Posted by: fairfaxvaguy | September 4, 2010 8:34 PM | Report abuse

And consider this problem as well -- too many states dictate that certain courses be taken by students entering fields such as teaching, regardless of whether or not they have that AP or IB class and a high score to go with it. In my own case, I had to take English I during my second-to-last semester because it was mandated by the state for all individuals seeking teacher certification at any level and in any field, despite my having scored a 4 on the AP exam.

Posted by: RhymesWithRight | September 4, 2010 8:57 PM | Report abuse

I think that the writer of this article is very naive. Personally, I took my first graduate course as a high school student of 15 (in urban planning). I took my first physics graduate course (2nd year graduate course at 18 in theoretical astrophysics). I started college with 48 credits. What I found was that by taking advanced placement courses, I saved time that I could use to explore. I was able to explore many graduate courses in mathematics and physics during my undergraduate years--which in turn gave me a head start when I began my doctoral program--which meant I was competitive with foreign nationals that often began with the equivalent of a masters. I am hardly unique. Students that I have mentored have taken the equivalent of a year of college level computer science and through multivariate calculus by their junior year in high school. For advanced students, what do you suggest they do?

For some, AP courses offer them the ability to finish college early and save time and money. For others, it allows them time to explore various fields of study before settling on a particular field. Also, outside of the commercial approach, in my experience, advanced placement courses provide an opportunity for greater learning than traditional courses. Yes, some schools do not accept them--but even then, they are worthwhile and comparing them to courses that I have taught at the collegiate level, under the proper instructor they are equivalent.

For those that mention the difficulties of being off sequence--I'll offer another example. I found myself off-sequence in quantum mechanics--so I simply took the graduate version and thoroughly enjoyed it. The courses provide an opportunity. It's up to the individual to take advantage of it.

Posted by: abecedarian | September 4, 2010 9:36 PM | Report abuse

Bah I say.

As an advisor in an engineering field I can tell you that college credits are great. You really want to take some Freshmen classes as a Freshman, but as long as there is still some to take, taking one or two 2nd year classes in your first term is probably okay. Just plan on taking less total credits than your non-AP peers (the 2nd year classes are harder and you haven't learned how to study yet).

AP credits, especially those covering the basics, are great. AP credits in your field of proposed study _can_ hurt you. If you are going to do programming, the AP CS exam is great for getting out of the "general programming" requirement, but not good for getting out of your first programming class in major--you really want to learn the material with everyone else so you are not missing some chunks for a later class. However it _does_ help you to be ahead and do well in that class.

Moral: Take AP, take IB. It won't help you finish as much as you'd like (32 credits should in theory let you finish a year early, but a semester is more likely) but you will be better prepared.

Posted by: bobtom222 | September 4, 2010 10:13 PM | Report abuse

One other comment.

At my school (top 10 engineering program) almost everyone comes in with 8+ credits from AP/IB or taking a class at a local community college. It helps a LOT to have done so. It makes graduating in 4 years a lot more reasonable AND it prepares you better than just normal high school.

Posted by: bobtom222 | September 4, 2010 10:15 PM | Report abuse

Those aged 18-24 are also adults and not "kids", meaning they shouldn't be called those words. For universities and colleges to be accredited, they should properly know how to handle AP and IB credits to avoid students taking courses which they don't need. There are problems in how higher education is structured so reform is needed with the suggestion that only universities and colleges which know how to handle AP and IB credits be accredited.

Posted by: LibertyForAll | September 4, 2010 11:36 PM | Report abuse

As an first-time AP English teacher, my content is shaped more by the level of discourse in the class and the mode of inquiry. I tell my students I expect them to pass the AP test, but I do not encourage them to avoid freshman English classes in college. I found those introductory courses invaluable. I am hopeful my students will simply enter them better prepared. I have started a blog on my experiences teaching this course at You might enjoy following my progress this year.

Posted by: dcproud1 | September 5, 2010 1:43 PM | Report abuse

I don't agree that AP tests don't test grammar. Perhaps they don't test a student's ability to diagram or to label parts of speech, but you need to understand the complexities of language pretty well to score even a 3. And I completely agree that these "problems" with colleges accepting AP scores are aberrations. I have taught AP for years and my students are consistently delighted with the flexibility and advancement their scores offer them at four-year colleges and universities. Of course, every school is different and there is invariably some griping, but I have to wonder at colleges that "don't know what to do" with AP scores?????? What kind of institutions ARE these?

Posted by: babyjack2009 | September 5, 2010 3:49 PM | Report abuse

AP, IB, are all reinforcement for individualizing instruction, pre-K-20.

EVERY learner is different. They all show up on the first day of class with different strengths and weaknesses, as well as different degrees of readiness and motivation. For the teacher/instructor to stand in front of the class and attempt to present one lesson is insanity. It makes absolutely no sense. Zero. Yet the practice continues.

And people actually wonder why education/pedagogy is still a disaster? Until this issue is confronted and significantly amended, education at every level will continue to flounder.

Posted by: phoss1 | September 6, 2010 6:13 AM | Report abuse

It sounds like none of the students did their homework. What they should realize is that high school does not equal college and vice-versa. If the expectation to take a high school class in order to get out of a college class by substituting for it, then the student is misguided. AP and IB offer challenging courses that would place a student above par with other students, showing them to be more favorable to the college of their choice. That is all it should be.

Posted by: ericpollock | September 6, 2010 11:02 PM | Report abuse

Ericpollock, the AP and IB curricula are often perfectly adequate substitutes for introductory college classes. There are, after all, only so many ways to teach a student that in 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue.

I think that the problem that needs to be solved is planning by the college administration (If you've got demand for English 102 in the fall, then schedule some more sections! This isn't rocket science!) and reducing the Chinese-restaurant menu approach to course selection. Yes, it's true that students need to take a variety of classes. But, c'mon, does it really matter exactly which history class the science major is taking -- so long as he or she takes some kind of basic history class? So why not let the student take whichever history class he's most interested in, instead of declaring that All Loyal Students Must Take American History Since 1865?

Posted by: getjiggly | September 7, 2010 12:16 AM | Report abuse

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