Account/Log In

Book Review

AP: A Critical Examination of the Advanced Placement Program

With an annual growth rate of 9.3% over the last two decades, Advanced Placement courses have become a juggernaut in American high school education. AP courses are routinely perceived as an indicator of educational rigor, and many schools push to enroll low-income or minority students in these courses in the hope of preparing them for success in college-level courses.

This book raises important questions based on new research: What are the advantages and disadvantages of courses geared toward the AP exams? How well do AP courses prepare students for college-level work or predict students’ success in college? Should colleges award credit for AP courses? Is the AP program a cost-effective tool for closing the gap between students in privileged and struggling communities?

This book draws together recent and rigorous research on the strengths and weaknesses of the Advanced Placement program. It examines closely the differences between AP and other high school courses, as well as variations among AP courses. In-depth studies gauge the impact of AP coursework on student performance in college. Finally, researchers examine the use of AP information in college admissions.

Philip Sadler states, in the key findings chapter of the book: “Many advocates of the AP program make sweeping claims about its broad impact on students: that they graduate college earlier, that they switch college majors less often, and that they are better prepared for college. But, at that gross scale, we find little evidence to support these claims and much evidence that contradicts it. Involvement in AP courses does not appear to bestow these global benefits on participating students beyond the habits and motivations that students already have on enrolling in advanced high school courses.”