The Haddonfield School District’s Board of Education (BOE) recently passed Policy 5432. Although some aspects of the policy are positive, the change in weighting for Advanced Placement (AP) classes is not in the students’ interest.
While the current system awards 12 extra points to a student’s class score when calculating the weighted grade point average (GPA) to recognize the extra rigor, next year’s system will differentiate students who complete the same class based on whether they also take the College Board’s AP exam in that subject: 10 extra points for completing the class with an additional 2 points for taking the AP exam.
The reasons given for the change are unconvincing: (1) the BOE wants to know how students are doing, (2) it is unfair to other students, and (3) it is confusing to colleges to have too much complexity in the grading system. All these reasons quickly fall apart under the least scrutiny.
First, there are plenty of students already taking the exams to know how students are doing. This is in addition to the myriad metrics already used to measure students. Second, the assertion of unfairness has no backing. In what way is it unfair to other students if a student doesn’t take an AP exam? Merely taking the exam is not an indication of effort or contribution to the class. Third, did the BOE achieve its goal of a less confusing system by giving different weightings based on taking the test?
The main benefits to students of the AP program are the opportunity to take a more rigorous curriculum and to get college credit, but the additional rigor alone is reason enough. There is no doubt that the courses are more rigorous than the alternatives. In fact, there are typically large discrepancies in rigor between the AP classes that terminate the four-year sequences in academic disciplines and the next class down.
Some of these AP classes, although valuable for the student’s education, are unrecognized by some colleges. It is hard to see the rationale for taking an AP exam when the college you are attending does not offer credit for that exam. This does not diminish the academic value of the class. I believe the BOE should rescind its policy of selling GPA points to its students. Although claiming that this policy protects academic integrity, the truth is the opposite.