AP and IB Tests Essential to Advanced Courses
Many students take Advanced Placement (AP) or International Baccalaureate (IB) classes to gain momentum in the high school race of college admissions. The classes appear to offer a lot: GPA inflation, an accelerated learning environment, and essentially a last day of school sometime in early May. The first point, however, is conditional. Currently, if students don’t take their respective AP or IB tests, they won’t get the benefit of an extra GPA point. Although some students argue against such a policy, its lax enforcement ought to be hardened, lest the entire AP program become meaningless.
Berkeley High has often reminded students that the letters “AP” will be removed from a student’s transcript if the student does not take their AP test. But the rule is not written in stone; such a policy goes essentially unenforced, as it is not computer automated. Teachers publicly cast doubt upon the incidence of any action being taken against a student who does not take their AP or IB test. Furthermore, where at other schools, 6 ‘A’s in 6 AP classes would mean a 5.0, 6 ‘A’s in 6 AP classes at BHS earns a student the same 4.0 that would be given to a student with straight ‘A’s in Drawing, Ceramics, and Team Sports.
Some colleges do not offer additional credits for certain AP classes, but they certainly all would like to see AP scores on applications. Colleges appreciate standardized tests: AP, IB, SAT, ACT, and others. This is not without good reason. Grade inflation in itself is a problem, regardless of the extra GPA point; without the evidence of an AP or IB test score, grades are arbitrary. An ‘A’ at one school may equate to a ‘D’ in another. With AP and IB testing, the level of rigor in a classroom is empirically measurable through test scores, and effectively comparable to students across the nation.
The perfect 5 on an average AP test usually means only around 65% correct, so it would appear not to be very difficult to achieve. But even students with ‘A’s in AP classes avoid test taking. Whether it be senioritis–induced apathy, or fear of scoring low, this is a problem. Summative tests are an impetus for students to refresh their knowledge of course material and a way to measure how well a student understands such material. AP tests not only serve as proof of education, but they serve as a sort of “final” exam in many classes. Some teachers give practice AP tests that don’t affect students’ grades in lieu of an actual final. Furthermore, the AP test is graded on a nationwide scale, and scores are curved accordingly. If students who would otherwise score low do not take the test, a high score becomes much harder to achieve for prepared students. Taking the AP test is almost a responsibility, comparable to STAR testing.
Nevertheless, some students choose not to take their tests. A test may appear too expensive or not worthwhile, as some colleges do not offer course credit or acceleration for even perfect test scores. It should be noted however, that BHS offers subsidized prices for low income students, and an $87 test can be reduced to as little as $15.
Many calls to action have been made about not “teaching to the test.” Some teachers’ unions detest prioritizing tests because it distracts students and teachers from real learning. This conclusion is fallacious in nature, as it does not give merit to the tests themselves or consider that passing a test takes true understanding of subject matter. Especially so in math and science courses, AP classes are taught in accordance to AP syllabi, so as to prepare students for AP tests. The entire premise of the AP program is to hit all the bases of a college level class, and equivalently, to be able to pass a three–hour test on all the course material. The school administration ought to be there to encourage students to take the AP test.
Beyond this, AP tests give students a goal: I want to pass the AP test. Tests can incentivize students to pay attention early on in the class, and even catch up on what they missed at the end of a course. As dreadful as they may be, there is an aspect of morale associated with these tests. When a school encourages students to take the AP or IB test, it is to everyone’s benefit. This can be done easily, by dangling an extra GPA point before an overachiever.
There will always be a student who doesn’t take the test. This becomes problematic however, when such an attitude is widely accepted amongst students. The AP program is based on tests, and so the school ought to make the AP label inextricable from tests.