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Letters to the Editor

Readers write about Advanced Placement courses.

June 6, 2008



Schools need a balanced role for Advanced Placement

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In response to Jack Schneider's May 28 Opinion piece, "Schools' unrest over the AP test," which expresses concern that high-performing schools will harm urban students if such schools replace Advanced Placement (AP) courses with their own curricula: This fear may be understandable, but it's misplaced.

The public schools in Scarsdale, N.Y., are making the shift from AP to locally developed curricula. However, we've spoken with admissions officers who say selective colleges simply want applicants to take the most demanding courses available to them, whether AP or something else.

AP continues to be a nationally recognized program that aims at a far higher standard than the traditional fare at most secondary schools. Most high schools will not abandon AP because it is a good program and because it is so widely recognized. Colleges, employers, and the general public will continue to understand this.

If a relative handful of schools do take a different route in search of something better, they don't diminish what is. To the contrary, they may help improve education for all.

Michael V. McGill
Scarsdale, N.Y.

Superintendent of Schools, Scarsdale

Regarding Jack Schneider's recent Opinion piece on AP programs: I must take issue with his analysis that a few colleges and high schools are raising the academic bar by denying college credit for AP exams, or by dropping them from their high school offerings.

In truth, I suspect that the issue is far more about money than it is about the supposed diminished value of the AP exams.

Of course it is self-serving in the extreme for any tuition-based high school to denigrate a program that is offered free of charge in the public schools.

The argument from these same schools that the AP classes are "a mile wide and an inch deep" is transparently hypocritical. The fact is that most colleges require general survey courses as part of their core requirements or as the prerequisite courses for more advanced study in a major, so it makes perfect sense to offer capable students the opportunity to get these essential, albeit "stodgy," college courses out of the way without fees in high school.

I can only hope that these courses continue to grow in number and participants, helping to level the educational playing field.

Sarah Gillis Schinis
Ansonia, Conn.

Regarding the recent Opinion piece on AP courses: My daughter went to what I guess you might call an "elite" school and did not take any AP classes. She was accepted at all the schools she applied to. At a university my daughter didn't go to, they found that students who took AP calculus in high school just didn't have the background in the subject that they needed and ended up retaking the course in college.

Charles Ulmann
West Chester, Pa.

In response to the recent Opinion piece on AP programs: The idea that 58 schools in the country (nearly all exclusive private institutions) do not support the AP program hardly justifies the conclusion that there is widespread discontent with the test.

The real problem is not that there is a movement away from AP by elite schools, but that the promise of AP has never been realized in the poorest schools. In fact, most of the AP expansion continues because the higher socioeconomic high schools offer additional AP classes every year.

Patrick Mattimore
Gex, France

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