Raising AP Test Score Failures

I can remember when I was in high school and some of my really smart friends were taking the advanced placement (AP) classes. They would tell me about all the work they would do, and how nervous they were about taking the final test to get college credit. I can remember them telling me that they had to do well, becuase if they didn’t then all of the work they did was for nothing. I could understand that. I wouldn’t want to spend a whole year in a class hoping to get college credit then not get it.

Keeping that in mind, the article in the USA TODAY was an eye opener.

The USA TODAY reported on the 2/4/2010 in an article titled Failure rate for AP tests climbing by Jack Gillum and Greg Toppo, that students are failing more often on AP tests over the past year. The USA TODAY reports that 41.5% of the students “earned a failing grade of 1 or 2, up from 36.5 in 1999.” This failure rate increase is due to the fact that more students are taking these classes that should be. In fact, the article cites that 2.9 million students took AP tests in the past year. Why are we allowing students who are not prepared or intelligent enough to take these classes? The content can’t be watered down to meet the needs of all students. There are standards that need to be taught at a certain level in order to pass the test.

How are are gifted students doing in these classes, and are their needs being met? Are they prepared to take these tests as well as other students? Those and other questions are not addressed in the USA TODAY article, but I wish they were. I do know that most high schools offer AP courses as part of their gifted education curriculum. I don’t believe that gifted students should only be offered to take AP courses to supplement their gifted education. They should be given other opportunities, such as early college entry courses, AP courses, subject acceleration, and/or grade acceleration. These are all part of the pie that will help our gifted children continue their gifted education.

The article cites that over the coming years more students will be taking these classes and taking these tests. So, what are we doing to help these students who are taking these AP tests and scoring a 1 or 2? I think we need to look at what are the prerequisites for these classes and making sure these students are meeting them. We need to look at the grades, benchmarks, and standards that these students met to get into these classes. If they don’t meet the requirements then they shouldn’t be in these classes. Why are we allowing students to work hard all year and then fail these tests? Failure should’t be an option.



Failure rate for AP tests climbing by Jack Gillum and Greg Toppo


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