Advanced Placement is getting a makeover.
Next month, the College Board — the national nonprofit organization that administers AP exams as well as the SAT Reasoning Test and Subject Tests — will announce details of an extensive remodeling of its AP program.
The goal of the changes, according to a College Board press release, is “to shift the instructional emphasis from breadth to depth of coverage.”
Dean of Admissions Eric Furda wrote in an e-mail that he is unsure if the program’s changes will lead to any new trends in Penn admissions. However, he believes it is important to view exam scores from a holistic perspective.
The Admissions Office values applicants who “extend themselves and seek academic rigor and challenge, but [do] not ‘overload’ themselves” on AP courses in high school, Furda wrote.
“We have to wait and see” if the new AP curriculum will “help students become broader and critical thinkers,” he added. “There has to be some balance between quantity and quality."
Associate Dean of the College and Director of Academic Affairs Kent Peterman echoed Furda’s sentiment. While Peterman said it is unlikely for College Board’s curriculum to prompt any changes to Penn’s policies on AP credit, he said he supports any initiative that “aims to get students away from a ‘plug and chug’ mentality.”
“We look at AP performance as something that helps us determine not what course a student can place out of, but what course a student can place into,” Peterman said. “It has been a helpful tool in that regard.”
The current AP program does not come without its criticisms, however.
Though AP tests allow ambitious students to earn college credit, some educators say that the sheer magnitude of material for the year-end exam is unrealistic, Biology professor Philip Rea said.
Some of the most sweeping changes to the AP program will be seen in AP Biology — a course that, according to a recent article in The New York Times, saw 172,000 test takers this year. Additional curriculum changes will affect U.S. History, World History and various language courses.
Rea said that some of his first-year students “are good at capturing and memorizing information but haven’t learned from their AP classes how to delve deep into a single topic.”
In one of his classes — Biology 121 — Rea administered a survey that asked students about their past biology experience. The survey revealed that 68 percent of the approximately 250 students enrolled in the course had taken AP Biology in high school.
“High school teachers often feel duty-bound to cover every bit of information in order to maximize AP test performance,” Rea said. “Our goal [in Biology 121] is to develop a more critical style of scientific thinking in young people.”
College freshman Katie Gansler, who used AP credit to place into Biology 121 this fall, said that her high school curriculum was “exhausting” to get through in one year. In particular, Gansler stressed that more emphasis on labs and lab reports in high school would have been helpful.
“Adapting to Penn’s lab curriculum was definitely a bit difficult,” she said. “Hopefully this new AP structure can lessen the burden on students a bit.”Comments powered by Disqus
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