AP Courses: The Costs and Benefits


I decided to do my wiki on Advanced Placement courses because I participated in a lot of these classes in high school. Although I found my AP classes to be challenging, I also found them to be extremely interesting and motivating. I was the type of student who did not like my hand to be held - I wanted to be allowed to learn material more independently and at a quicker pace. For me, my AP classes were a benefit because I was able to skip a year of college with the AP credits that transferred over and the weighted grades I received. However, as I have taken more education classes, I have begun to wonder whether my experience in AP classes was the typical one and whether others tend to benefit from them, as I did. I also wanted to investigate the College Board to see what role it plays in developing the tests and curricula for these classes. Finally, I wanted to discover if there was a link between AP classes and tracking, and how many minority students were able to participate in and benefit from these courses.

Top Five Things I Learned:

  1. The College Board makes a lot of money off of AP courses. Not only do they develop AP curricula, but they also develop the tests and study guides for AP classes.
  2. Many minority students do not have the same access to AP courses that white students have. Too many schools are not even equipped to offer these classes.
  3. Part of the No Child Left Behind Act was dedicated to hiring "skilled teachers" who had college degrees in the areas that they were teaching and who were thus thought to be more capable of teaching AP courses.
  4. Students who take more AP courses are more likely to go to college than those who take fewer classes or none at all.
  5. The amount of students in Oregon who are participating in AP courses has gone up in the past few years - so too has the number of students who received a 1 on their AP tests.


  1. This source is a youtube video I found that talks about the "college matrix," or the current AP system. In this person's view, College Board and the media entice students and their parents to spend exorbitant amounts of money on AP tests so that these students can spend more money on college tuition, only to graduate into a recession. While I may not agree with everything in this video, it does provide interesting statistics about how much College Board makes. Rating: 4/5 Stars for a biased and somewhat exaggerated argument.

2. This youtube video is by a New York Times Op/Ed contributor. This is a great video because it talks about the pressures that AP students face and how many are forced to re-evaluate their participation in the program due to the overwhelming stress they deal with. It also talks about how AP courses are more about getting into college than engaging achieving students. Rating: 4/5 Stars for great interviews with students, parents, and college administrators.

3. This youtube "Facts of Life Minisode" is an entertaining look at the AP system. Natalie, one of the characters, enrolls in an AP course so she can skip her senior year of high school and go straight into college. However, not long after she starts taking the course, her attitude begins to change and her grades begin to drop. This video is more for entertainment purposes than anything else. Rating: 2/5 Stars because, although funny, it is outdated and does not accurately reflect the current AP system.

4. This next source is a NPR broadcast about four California students who sued their school district because it did not offer the same access to AP courses that other schools did. These students were minorities and their school was made up of predominantly black and Latino students. This source provides an interesting argument for how the AP system contributes to a type of tracking that is based on race and socio-economic status. Rating: 4/5 Stars for great information and an interesting topic. (I could not embed this, so I had to hyperlink it, sorry).

Advanced Placement Classes

5. This NPR broadcast is from the Tavis Smiley show. Like the above link, this one deals with how minority students are treated in the AP system. However, unlike the above link, this audio clip is one African American student's experience in the AP program at her school. In the broadcast, she talks about how her school's AP program included few minority students (even though her school was predominantly black) and how it, in general, favored white students. Rating: 4/5 Stars for an informative, eye-opening, and personal account.

Commentary: Weighing the Benefits of AP Classes

6. This youtube video is a portion of a documentary made by actual high school AP students. This documentary is interesting because it shows the AP system as one that places a lot of demands and pressure on its students while also preparing them for college. Thus, both the good and the bad side of AP is explored. Rating: 3/5 Stars for an interesting and well-rounded take on the topic, even if the video is poor quality.

7. Below is the link to the College Board website. This is a great resource for students, teachers, and parents alike. The website answers almost every question one can have about AP and provides several tips for being successful in these classes. The site also provides useful information about testing dates and test strategies/study guides. Rating: 4/5 Stars because it is informative and gives students, teachers, and parents a lot of resources that they can use to evaluate whether AP is the right choice for them or not.

College Board

8. This link is to an article featured on the Oregon Department of Education's website. The article is about how AP classes may actually be contributing to the closing of the achievement gap in Oregon and how more minority students (in Oregon) have begun to enroll in AP classes. The article also talks about how more Oregon students are passing their AP exams with a 3 or better - which is usually the minimum passing grade that colleges will accept for credit. Rating: 4/5 Stars for an interesting article that is full of statistics and practical data related to Oregon, specifically.

More Oregon Students Participate, Succeed in Advanced Placement

If You Can Only Visit One Resource on This Wiki it Should Be . . .

9. This is an amazing powerpoint presentation from the Oregon Department of Education's website. This slideshow (you have to scroll down to the "When All Meets All" powerpoint presentation) is about the benefits of AP classes AND the ways in which these courses need to be improved. AP classes are neither completely good or completely bad. On the contrary, AP classes can be very beneficial for some students and overwhelming for others. This slideshow talks about how the AP system should be reformed to include more minority students and how teachers can better prepare their students to succeed in these courses.

When All Meets All