According to a College Board report, about 800,000 public high school seniors in last May’s graduating class, or 26.5 percent of the class, took an A.P. exam at some point in their high school career, almost twice as many as took A.P. exams in the class of 2001.
About 43 percent of the 2.3 million A.P. exams taken earned a failing grade of 1 or 2, compared with 39 percent of the one million exams taken by the class of 2001.
Many high schools now offer AP courses because supporters believe that just taking an AP course is good preparation for college, even if students don’t actually receive credit for the course.
Several high schools and colleges developed the AP course in 1952 as a way for high school students to easily obtain credit for college courses. AP was supposed to prevent students from taking repetitive courses their first year of college. Now AP has become a sort of high school college track, where students believe they have to take AP to get into college at all. The average high school now offers 10 AP courses.
Fieldston, a private day school in Manhattan, dropped AP a decade ago, with the principal explaining to the Village Voice that:
The notion that the APs are sacred is wrong. They emphasize breadth over depth, and they’re content-driven rather than focusing on developing skills like critical inquiry, discourse, ways of approaching text.
AP European [History] was like the Bataan Death March, slogging through the material. If you dared stop to deal with something in depth, you might not cover what you needed for the exam. It was the death knell of intellectual excellence.