Thousands of high school students across Georgia enroll in Advance Placement (AP) courses in hopes to fortify their likelihood to gain more college credit to offset college costs. However, not all colleges will take AP courses. Many in-state (and out-of-state) flagship universities require a score of a 4 or a 5 (5 is the highest score on AP exams) and in some cases, they do not take them at all.  In Georgia, a university or college may accept a score of a 3 or higher, but one should investigate their desired college’s AP exam score transfer requirement.

In recent years, some educators who have taught the AP courses from College Board, realize that AP courses are not what they use to be – a reduction in quality. After teaching AP courses for several years, I would agree based on individual courses.   The AP College Board has monopolized the curriculum, the testing, and in some courses, ways that content should be taught – leaving no creativity for teachers to practice fully. Several of the courses today have changed their curriculum and testing frameworks to align with the College Board’s national college entrance test – the SAT.

Many teachers who have taught these courses over the years, might not have had the professional development funding to get retrained in the new framework. Those teachers may just “wing it” in hopes they’ll learn the new model to help kids pass the AP exam. Some school districts do get selected for state grants to send teachers for training, but not every AP teacher receives the new training whose course framework has changed – that depends on the school’s leadership team – it boils down to who is willing to go for training over their summer break.

Such efforts narrow the instruction of content knowledge and focus more on test-prep instruction. This is often passed off to students and parents as teaching “critical thinking skills.” Unfortunately, some in education feel the AP College Board is the arbiter of what is worth learning for college level success.  After all, it is about the test, right?  School districts get high marks if they increase enrollment within AP courses. The more students that enroll and take the exam, the more points a school will receive, regardless of the students pass the AP exam with a 3 or higher.

The College Board receives dollars from the U.S. Department of Education through grants to help pay for exams.  There are whispers among Georgia’s education bureaucrats about changing the E-SPLOST tax law to fund more AP testing to increase enrollment….do you see how this works?  It’s about drawing down the federal dollars and get high marks from organizations that help fund College Board’s lobbying efforts. The educrats always get smitten with public-private partnerships that claim to be “cutting edge.”

The College Board is a billion-dollar company selling curriculum and collecting AP testing fees at $94 a pop. Over half of College Board’s revenue comes from the AP program (books, digital curriculum, testing-prep materials, testing fees, etc). Many districts use federal taxpayer funding, based on free and reduced lunch data qualifications, to help students pay for the exams. The use of this funding has increased participation in AP exams, not necessarily in pass rates nationwide, but Georgia does rank better than most states on pass rate. Students, who do not qualify for free and reduced lunch, must pay to take the test. In some cases, schools let students who do not qualify for free and reduced lunch, charge it as a student fine in order to increase test enrollments.

So, are there other options? Yes.

If you have a high school student being told that they must take AP courses to get both high school and college credit, that is no longer true. For years, the AP program was coronated as the Holy Grail a “rigorous” college transfer credit program.   There is no such thing as “universal rigor” anymore. Most educators cannot define it with research – it remains a paradox.

Students can now take courses via the Move On When Ready Program (MOWR).  MOWR is Georgia’s dual enrollment program for students in grades 9-12. Remember, this is called move on when ready for a reason. Not all students are ready for this program, but it does afford an opportunity for those students that might have strengths in different subject areas to earn college credit in high school.

Some high schools in Georgia have a partnership agreement with local 2-year technical colleges to use AP courses as the dual enrollment course if the local high school teachers are qualified to deliver those credits through the MOWR program. The courses are taught on-site at the local high school by the qualified AP/MOWR teacher. Students must take a test (ACCUPLACER), which cost about $25 to qualify to take MOWR courses (sometimes the school pays for it). This is a onetime fee as opposed to the $94 per AP course exam.  Yes, that is more testing, and College Board owns that test too. That is a viable and more worthwhile option for families without giving more money to the College Board profiteers – especially if your student does not make a 3 or higher on the new frameworks of the AP exam in a particular subject. Moreover, this is a viable option for rural systems to look into helping their teachers become qualified to offer more college transferable courses to a technical college.

Do students have to pass the AP exam if they take the AP course in order to receive the transferable credit at the technical college?  Generally, no. Check the school’s articulation agreement with the partner college. Students may just have the pass the AP course to satisfy the articulation agreement with the partnering local technical college.

The local high school pays a set fee for the student to take the course through the school’s funding allotment determined by the Georgia Department of Education. The student’s earned course grade does not count toward the student’s HOPE grant once they enter college (pg. 2).  Ideally, these MOWR entrance scores, along with a certain amount of completed MOWR courses, should be used as acceptance requirements for a Georgia college instead of the SAT. Currently, we have no candidate for Governor (or Lt. Governor), in both political parties, that has an education plan worth swooning over.

Some will disagree, but using the AP’s test-prep model to teach college level material reduces rich and satisfying learning experiences for students than most introductory college level courses.  At the end of the day, is it about the credit or quality of education? Parents and students must decide.

Another way is to take courses using the MOWR program is through the University System of Georgia’s E-Core program. The courses are taught online, but there is no timetable of an AP test dictating the learning environment, but some students do better in the face-to-face environment than online. One would need to consider the maturity of their student before placing them in this learning environment. The instructional design within the E-Core introductory courses is not laced with test-prep timeline centered curriculum, and quality discussion and modules would enrich the content experience. For rural communities having problems finding qualified teachers, this could be another option if internet broadband is working effectively in the area.

Through E-Core, if an AP course was not offered at a local high school, or if its course equivalent is not offered at the local college, a student could enroll as a temporary student at an E-Core affiliated college through their high school and take the course(s). See the list of Georgia college’s that are affiliated with E-core course transferability.

The Move On When Ready program appears to encroach on College Board’s monopolized niche for a one-size-fits-all transferable college education in Georgia. Education should be different for everyone, and AP courses have morphed into a ‘Big Ed’ public-private mea culpa of cronyism between College Board and educrats. Know the options for your student and ask present these options to your school.

 

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Jeremy Spencer is currently the market and content manager for All on Georgia-Camden  and Glynn Counties. Jeremy’s focus will be local news, statewide education issues, and political commentary for the All on Georgia News Network. Jeremy has served as a education policy analyst for local legislators and state education leaders as well as a campaign strategist for local and statewide political campaigns.

Jeremy grew up in rural Southern Georgia and he has served as a healthcare provider, high school science teacher, and a state education official.  Jeremy holds degrees in science and education from the University of Georgia, Piedmont College, and Valdosta State University. He and his wife have lived in Camden County for 16 years and they have two teenage children. Jeremy and his family attend Christ Church Camden in Kingsland, GA.

camden@allongeorgia.com

 

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