University News

U. to evaluate AP and IB weight

Following higher ed trends, Brown will reexamine standing from AP, IB courses

Senior Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 11, 2014

With the number of high school students taking Advanced Placement courses more than doubling over the last 10 years, some of Brown’s peer institutions have stopped accepting AP and International Baccalaureate test scores for course credit. And while the University does not grant course credit for AP or IB scores, administrators said they will likely review Brown’s policies on both transfer credits and advanced standing from AP and IB scores this spring.

The College of William and Mary became the most recent elite university to announce it is no longer accepting AP and IB scores for course credit for some requirements, the Chronicle of Higher Education reported last month. This academic year also marked the first time Dartmouth did not grant course credit for high AP and IB scores, the Chronicle reported.

Though the University does not give course credit for any AP or IB scores, students can use satisfactory results from these tests to fulfill concentration requirements or place out of introductory classes at the discretion of individual academic departments, according to the dean of the College’s website. But AP and IB scores are not displayed on external transcripts, said Margaret Klawunn, vice president for campus life and student services and acting dean of the College.

Many higher education specialists have expressed a growing concern over the quality of AP courses and their ability to prepare students for upper-level college courses, said Christopher Dennis, deputy dean of the College, adding that “now almost everybody is offering AP. It’s getting harder to sort out what are quality programs.”

The University will likely examine its approach to both transfer credits and advanced standing gained from high scores on these standardized tests, Dennis said. Administrators have been invited to speak with College Board representatives later this spring to analyze the AP testing system, he added.

AP and IB programs vary across different states as well as across high schools with different resources, Dennis said. AP and IB credits are mainly valuable to applicants seeking to bolster their admission chances to Brown, he added.

Denise Croote ’16 placed out of two semesters of calculus and an introductory biology course using AP scores. Because the more advanced math and science courses are highly specialized, waiving her prerequisites for them did not affect her performance in the courses, she said. AP test scores are dependent on how well a student prepares for the exam, rather than the knowledge gained form the course, Croote added.

Nicole Lee ’15 said APs should not be used as a marker of how well a student will fare in an upper-level course. Instead, the University should rely more on its own specially designed placement tests, she added.

Kota Mizutani ’17 said he did not use any of his AP scores to place into higher-level courses, because he did not feel adequately prepared by his high school’s AP program.

AP tests are no longer construed as a measure of college preparedness, but rather as a way to boost a college application, Lee added.

Students with more than three qualifying scores may advance their semester standing, but must still take the standard 30 courses to graduate, according to the dean of the College’s website. Students may only petition for accelerated graduation after their fifth semester. But even after filing the paperwork to graduate early, many students decide that they would rather stay for a full eight semesters at Brown, Klawunn said, adding that few students end up advancing their semester standing.

The acknowledgment of AP and IB credit helps fulfill the mission of the New Curriculum, allowing students to take more challenging courses without having to repeat what they have already learned, Klawunn said. The case may be different for universities with core curriculum programs such as Columbia, where placing out of a course could mean waiving a requirement integral to that school’s general undergraduate curriculum, she added.

Croote said the ability to place out of introductory courses is especially valuable for students in concentrations with many requirements, such as biochemistry.

Nicolas Ledru ’16 said the University should continue to acknowledge AP and IB scores so motivated students can take better advantage of the “top-tier education available at Brown.”

Mizutani said Brown emphasizes each student’s freedom in shaping their education and should continue to acknowledge AP credit.

  • johnlonergan

    Here’s a radical idea. Why doesn’t Brown offer Brown-branded AP courses with the support of Brown professors? And why can’t Brown charge the wealthier districts for each enrolled student?

    This would solve three key problems plaguing Brown today:

    1. It would start to form deeper relationships with high school students BEFORE the admissions process starts.
    2. It would deliver guaranteed quality of the courses–as Brown would be able to create the courses and track performance itself.
    3. It represents a significant revenue stream (to 100’s of thousands of students worldwide) which can start to ensure Brown’s sustainability and start to reduce current sky-high tuition

    Brown professors and students/grad students can support the AP teachers in the secondary schools. This is particularly important in poorer schools that can’t offer high-quality courses, or where the teachers are overwhelmed.

    Brown can also support the poorer districts by (1) finding the true academic stars, and (2) offering the courses and AP credits at a reduced price.

    If Brown accepts the AP credits towards a Brown degree, it creates a ‘sunk cost’ for the students, making it more likely that they’ll attend Brown and be able to use those credits.

    Brown must move away from the current sky-high tuition, low acceptance rates (45% of those accepted choose to go to their first-choice school) and shaky economic foundation. This offers a way to turn a problem (see above) into a solution.

    • Interesting!

      But who would run this program? We would need some sort of old rich finance weirdo who spends all his time commenting on his college’s student newspaper’s website. But where would we find such a man!?

      • johnlonergan

        Thanks for your incisive comments about how Brown can grow out of the quagmire in which it finds itself. I hope that you are not representative of the quality of thought and leadership now present at Brown.

        While you fiddle, Brown continues to tread water while other universities are forging ahead.

        We need leaders, not snide complainers.