Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Why AP courses aren't superior to dual credit

I just filled out another survey for a magazine creating a national "Best High Schools" list. This one
was for Newsweek, but every year we also see the same type of thing from U.S. News. I'm not sure why I take time out of my day to even complete the survey given the fact that they are using the information for profit, and I don't have faith in the metrics they use to determine the best schools.

The measure that is the most frustrating, and one these magazines use heavily to determine the best schools, is the participation rate and completion rate on Advanced Placement courses. We don't offer any AP courses at Bolivar High School, but we do offer 19 dual credit courses in partnership with Southwest Baptist University and Missouri State University, and it's not uncommon for our students to graduate from high school with 30 plus college hours complete.

It's not that I'm against AP courses in general. No doubt these courses are rigorous and help prepare students for college, but so does our dual credit program. Our teachers are qualified to teach college level coursework, and overall the dual credit route better meets the needs of our students. Instead of one test (AP exam) to determine if a student has successfully completed the advanced program, our students are able to earn the college credit each semester without everything riding on one exam.

Moreover, we've found the dual credit classes are generally better accepted for college credit at universities than AP courses. For our students, it just makes sense to for them to want to take dual credit courses over AP.

As we think about what's next for our dual credit program, we would like to add additional courses and perhaps the ability for students to complete an associate's degree while in high school. That would require approximately 60 hours of college credit during the high school years. While the goal would be for these students to continue their studies beyond the associate's degree, it would provide a target for students wanting to demonstrate academic acceleration through high school.

We would also like to greatly expand the opportunities for under-resourced students to take dual credit courses at a reduced cost or for free. We are considering the creation of a dual credit "Bright Futures" scholarship fund that could be used to help students with potential who might not have the current financial means to take dual credit courses.
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