Dartmouth to stop giving credit for AP courses

Eric Owens | Editor

Dartmouth College will end the practice of awarding college credit to incoming first-year students who earn qualifying scores on Advanced Placement (AP) exams, beginning with the class of 2018.

After the kind of years-long discussion that only a faculty could have, Dartmouth’s professors voted to pull the plug on the practice, reports Yahoo News. The reason: The 34 varieties of AP courses and their corresponding exams lack the rigor of Ivy League classes.

“The concern that we have is that increasingly, AP has been seen as equivalent to a college-level course, and it really isn’t, in our opinion,” said Hakan Tell, a classics professor who chairs the college’s Committee on Instruction.

One glaring piece of evidence cited by Tell is an experiment conducted by the Dartmouth psychology department. Instead of giving credit for a survey course to students with top scores on the AP psychology exam, the department gave those students a boiled-down version of the Dartmouth course’s final exam. Not only did 90 percent flunk, but they also fared no better in the course on average than did students who did not ace the AP test.

According to Tell, Dartmouth will still use AP test scores for course placement purposes.

Approximately 2 million students took about 3.7 million AP tests last spring, Yahoo notes. In 2011, 18 percent of all American high school graduates passed an AP exam (by scoring 3 or better on a 1 to 5 scale).

Critics of Advanced Placement testing and similar exams charge that the programs result in watered-down courses and substandard mastery of the underlying material.

“Many high schools have made their AP courses little more than test prep,” said Bob Schaeffer of the National Center for Fair & Open Testing (FairTest), according to Yahoo. “The common criticism is that they’re a mile wide and a quarter-inch deep.”

Policies differ at other elite schools. At Princeton, for example, students can use AP scores to become eligible for “advanced standing,” but only a few students have bothered to exploit the opportunity in recent years. At Harvard, says Yahoo, students can use their high scores on AP exams to satisfy foreign language degree requirements. The University of Chicago does not award any credit for one-semester AP courses, reports U.S. News University Directory, regardless of the scores students achieve on their exams.

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