Advanced Placement Tests
December 22, 2009, 09:26 PM
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The New York Times holds a discussion on whether too many Advanced Placement courses and/or tests are being offered to high school students.

Leaving aside for the moment the more subtle issues (some of which are explored surprisingly well in the discussion), I noticed in the NYT's comments a "B.P." who makes one helluva case for the basic existence of Advanced Placement testing:

I was the first person in my extended family (35 siblings and first cousins in this generation) to graduate from a 4 year university. My parents both left high school at age 16. My father finished high school by correspondence, my mother has her GED. I was raised in a religious minority with lower U.S. college attendance rates than the Native American population (per Pew research). As late as my last semester of high school, I doubted whether I would be able to attend college upon high school graduation.

I was also the (male) AP State Scholar from AZ for 1994. I qualified for free AP exams based on family income level, and I took all offered AP courses consistent with my schedule as well as taking exams in several other areas where AP courses were not offered. The 63 credits I earned in this fashion allowed me to complete a BS in Electrical Engineering in 3.5 years, while taking a light enough (12-15 semester hour) course load that I could schedule all of my classes for two or three day schedules, allowing me to work 3-4 days per week, while continuing to spend roughly 20 hours per week in religious activities. While supplemented by an AZ tuition waiver (class rank based) to attend a state school, a National Merit Scholarship, and proximity to campus (4 miles from ASU), this course credit was the key factor which allowed me to make the case to my father that I would be able to continue to work in the family business while attending college for an unextended period, and it wouldn't cost him a dime, nor would we incur debt.

Had my high school (with its roughly 50% dropout rate) not had an extensive AP program, I have no doubt that I would not have gone to college. I would currently be a sub-par unemployed electrician, instead of a registered professional engineer for the past 9 years. I would be looking for a job rather than having been employed in 5 progressively more responsible engineering positions at the same utility over the past 11 years. At least three family members would currently not own the houses they are living in, my youngest sister wouldn't have graduated from ASU, and I would currently be worring about how to support my parents in retirement.

... Denying students opportunity is no service to students or society.

Sounds like the hero of a Heinlein juvenile novel from 1958.

I wonder which "religious minority" is this fellow from? Polygamous Mormon? Jehovah's Witnesses? Syrian Jewish? Shi'ite? Mennonite? There are a lot of clues in his comment (which can be read in full here), but I haven't been able to come up with a good guess.