Letter to the Editor: AP credits benefit students

I am writing in response to Patrick Bergin’s article “U Should no longer accept AP credit” published on Sept. 15, because it contains inaccuracies throughout.
Bergin appears unaware of the deep and continued involvement of University of Utah faculty in the AP Program — involvement designed to ensure that AP Exams measure the knowledge and skills required by the University of Utah. In fact, there is no university in the nation that has a larger number of faculty responsible for setting the scoring standards for AP Exams. U of U faculty help design the AP courses, review and approve high school teachers’ AP syllabi, train AP teachers, write AP Exam questions and score students’ AP Exams. To set high standards for AP students, U of U faculty collaborate with more than 5,000 professors from other selective colleges and universities nationwide — including Duke, Harvard, Princeton, Stanford, University of California Berkeley, University of Texas Austin and University of Wisconsin.
Because the AP courses and exams are developed and scored by college professors, it is not surprising that research consistently finds that AP students who earn scores of 3 or higher outperform matched peers in subsequent college coursework. Bergin inaccurately described a research study conducted by Harvard professor Phil Sadler. Sadler’s conclusion is that students “who reported passing their AP exam earned college grades that were significantly higher than those of students with other experiences.” (Philip M. Sadler and Gerhard Sonnert, “High School Advanced Placement and Success in College Coursework in the Sciences,” 2010.)
The AP Program does not mandate one type of AP policy, but instead recommends that each institution base its policy on an analysis of how students perform when placed ahead. We will supply AP score data to any institution interested in conducting such an analysis in order to set an AP policy that encourages high school students to challenge themselves, and then places those students fairly and appropriately on campus.
Many colleges require different AP scores for different subject areas. Among colleges that recognize scores of three are: Brown, Cornell, Johns Hopkins, Stanford, University of Chicago, University of California Berkeley and Washington University in St. Louis. Across all AP policies nationwide, 65 percent of departments grant AP credit for scores of three, 33 percent grant credit for fours and two percent grant credit only for fives.
University of Utah’s AP credit and placement policies attract students who are demonstrably more motivated and more likely to complete their degrees on time than peers. Institutions such as the U with data-based, fair AP credit policies achieve increased yield rates among students they have admitted, and AP students who have earned scores of three or better are consistently more likely than matched peers to complete their degrees on time. AP students typically do not use their AP credit to graduate early, but instead use their credit to take more upper-division courses in that academic department than their peers. In other words, the U’s AP policy provides students with the flexibility to double-major, study abroad and take additional upper division courses without sacrificing the ability to graduate in four years.
In relation to Mr. Bergin’s comments about AP fees, the $89 AP Exam fee is used to cover all of the AP Program’s operating costs: developing, printing, shipping and scoring the exams. For students unable to afford the $89 fee, the College Board partners with federal, state and local agencies to reduce the fee (historically to $0-10 per exam). After paying for our expenses with the exam fees, decisions about the use of any remaining funds are decided by our Board of Trustees, which is comprised of educators from colleges, universities and secondary schools. Unlike a for-profit entity, where profits benefit investors, the College Board is obligated to reinvest remaining funds in educational programs. Our trustees ensure these funds are used to improve educational opportunity and quality for a diversity of students. This year, our Board of Trustees has approved the use of such funds to provide scholarships to teachers; increased subsidies to low-income students; creation of online score reports for AP students; and online learning supports for students.
In most high schools across the nation, AP is the most rigorous curriculum available to students. Many of those who take AP courses are eager to attend college to further engage in challenging course work. The AP Program salutes the expertise of University of Utah’s college faculty, who, through their leadership of the AP Program, do so much to inspire high school teachers and students to attain higher standards and higher learning.

Trevor Packer
Senior Vice President, AP and Instruction
College Board