The Boston Charter School I worked at last year employed something called “AP for All”–in order to graduate, every student was required to take AP US History junior year and AP English senior year.
Jay Matthews, the education reporter for the Washington Post, is also a huge believer in the importance of AP courses and tests. In fact, his rating system of public high schools relies heavily on the percentage of students that take and pass APs.
I took 9 AP tests in high school and got a 4 or higher on 8 of them. I think they did a great job of preparing me for college. But I was more than ready for them by junior year.
I am definitely in favor of providing opportunities for motivated students to take APs, regardless of their grades. But I am strongly against AP for All for two reasons:
1) Would you want a 8th grader to take an AP class? No? Then why does it make sense to put someone who has 8th grade skills in an AP class? You wouldn’t want someone taking AP Calculus who hadn’t mastered algebra, and you wouldn’t want someone taking AP English who reads at an 8th grade level. I think it’s counterproductive to enroll students in courses that are so far over their heads that they can’t access them.
2) There’s no getting around that AP classes require a lot of work to be successful. Some students that are “forced” to take AP classes might eventually become inspired to work hard, but others who, for example, might never do the assigned reading for an AP US History class, aren’t really getting much out of the experience.