Interesting article about the Advanced Placement class system in today's NYT. AP classes offer college freshman level instruction in any of 35 different subjects, with the opportunity to earn college credit by examination at the end of the year. College admissions counselors give AP classes more weight than CLEP, the competing credit-by-examination program (also run by the College Board). International Baccalaureate (IB) programs seem to be even more rigorous than AP, but not available nearly as widely.
The NYT article made the following observation:
"Over all, students in the United States have lagged behind their counterparts in other countries in math and science on international tests. The Trends in International Math and Science Study, developed by an international group and gathered every four years, showed in 2003 that American students scored the lowest of 16 countries in physics and the second lowest in calculus.
But A.P. students did far better. Those who had taken A.P. calculus, even including those who scored only a 1 or 2 on the exam, did as well on the TIMSS exams as students from the first-place nation, France. And those who had taken AP physics, including those with low scores, were outperformed only by those from the top two nations, Norway and Sweden."
Technically, AP students have taken college level classes in these subjects and are competing against typical 12th-grade students in the other countries. Unfair advantage? Or are our high school students capable of more than we're giving them credit for?