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Higher Ed in the News

Advanced Placement program oversold?

March 31, 2010

The Advanced Placement program is becoming more and more popular, with 25 percent of high school graduates taking at least one AP examination.

Despite the immense popularity of the program, the research evidence on its value is minimal, according to a new book, AP: A critical Examination of the Advanced Placement Program.

The research presented in the book — believed to be the most comprehensive gathering of studies to date — is mixed. The research studies in the book suggest that for most well-prepared students, AP tends to offer rigorous courses that advance their knowledge of the subject matter in meaningful ways.

But the program's rapid expansion has resulted in some tough criticism. Claims that the program helps students graduate on time or save money are found generally to have no validity.

And research in the book suggests that many of the efforts to push the program into more schools — a push that has been financed with many millions in state and federal funds — may be paying for poorly-prepared students to fail courses they shouldn't be taking in the first place.

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