Lawmakers Mull Changes to AP Credits

By: Lilly Rockwell, The News Service of Florida
By: Lilly Rockwell, The News Service of Florida

THE CAPITAL, TALLAHASSEE, April 8, 2011 -

In a move that could impact thousands of Florida high school students, some Florida lawmakers want to make it more difficult to obtain college credit through Advanced Placement exams.

Tucked into a bill (SB 1732) that mostly focuses on the Florida College System is a requirement that students obtain a score of 4 out of 5 on AP exams, instead of the minimum score of 3 required in current law to get college credit. The bill was approved by the Senate Higher Education Committee on Monday and next goes to the Budget Committee.

The move would be a big change for high school students who spend an entire year preparing for AP tests. By elevating the standards for gaining college credit, more students will face a disincentive to take harder courses, critics say.

A similar bill in the House (HB 7151) only requires the Department of Education to use how students perform in subsequent college or university courses to determine the appropriate minimum exam scores for Advanced Placement and other college credit classes. The Senate version would also do this.

Advanced Placement exams are taken commonly in subject areas such as chemistry, calculus or English, though there are more than 30 tests available. Students enroll in Advanced Placement courses in high school designed to prepare them for the year-end AP test. If the score is at least a 3, the student receives a college credit for that class.

But problems have arisen, some universities say, when too many students who received the minimum score of 3 on their AP tests were not performing well on the more difficult courses later in college.

“What we have found is that the students getting less than a 4 do not fare as well in college courses,” said Sen. Evelyn Lynn, R-Ormond Beach, who is the author of SB 1732.

The University of Florida supports the measure, said UF spokesman Steve Orlando.

“What happens in some cases is students come in having made a 3, for example, on their AP Calculus and then they come in and don’t have a firm enough foundation to take the advanced courses.”

On the House side, Rep. Bill Proctor, R-St. Augustine, said he also heard from universities that scoring a 3 often isn’t a sufficient enough preparation for the next level of courses.

“Universities wanted flexibility to establish a higher level like a 4 on the AP if they were going to accept it as the basic course in certain districts,” Proctor said.

The College Board, which administers the AP test, is opposed to the idea.

Kathleen Steinberg, spokeswoman for the College Board, said no other states were considering raising the minimum AP exam scores required for college credit. Steinberg said the College Board recommends credit or placement after a score of 3 or higher. “Research consistently shows that students who earn scores of 3 and higher perform as well as or better than non-AP students in subsequent courses,” Steinberg said in a written statement.

Steinberg said the most frequent minimum score a student earns is a 3 and if it were changed fewer students would have an incentive to pursue more rigorous classes.

In Florida, nearly 307,000 students took an AP exam in 2010, according to College Board statistics. Of those, about 64,000 scored the minimum of 3, with about 43,400 students getting a 4 and about 26,300 students getting a 5.

Last year, Department of Education Commissioner Eric Smith told the St. Petersburg Times he thought AP classes were becoming too popular and being over-enrolled by students who were ill-prepared.

"There needs to be some selectivity in how kids are guided into AP, and which AP work they're guided into,” Smith said then.


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