A few years ago, Minneapolis South high school decided to require all students take Advanced Placement (AP) U.S. History in 10th grade, “partly because we were seeing segregation in our building between AP courses and non AP courses,” South Engllsh teacher Corinth Matera said. “We didn’t like that segregation. We wanted every student to have that challenge.”
For students choosing a high school or planning ahead for their college career, Minnesota schools offer options for accelerated learning that not only look good on a college application, but also can earn college credit. In this series, we looked at two dual credit options — Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate. (Post Secondary Enrollment Options or PSEO and College in the Schools are two other options.) The articles in this series compare the AP and IB on the basis of cost, rigor, requirements, and student experiences. For all the articles, see Starting college in high school. [Information in graphs from MN Department of Education website (percentage of total students) and from MN Department of Education 2012 Rigorous Course Taking report to legislature.]
The change resulted in a huge increase in not just that course but in other courses as well. “After that 10th grade year, more students are choosing AP courses,” Matera said. “They have good experiences and aren’t so afraid.”
According to the Minnesota Department of Education’s description of AP:
“The Advanced Placement Program is a cooperative educational endeavor between secondary schools and colleges and universities. Since its inception in 1955, the College Board Program has provided motivated high school students with the opportunity to take college-level courses in a high school setting. The program consists of 34 college-level courses and standardized exams that assess proficiency in these courses.”
Today at South, “a lot of students take AP,” Matera said. She is taking a year off this year from teaching AP, but taught AP courses for seven years before that, including AP English Literature and AP English Language.
When Matera first started teaching AP, there were only two sections of AP English. “This year we have 13 sections,” she said.
Though the AP program provides an opportunity for students to get college credit, Matera said, “I see the value of AP courses of the experience of a college level courses than the college credit.”
“I’m not a big standardized test believer. I want my students to do well and have the opportunity to get college credit. I am more interested in the students gaining skills and their writing improving.”
Requirements on her as an AP teacher include summer trainings, which Matera finds useful. “They are paid through state money,” she said. “The district doesn’t have to pay for that.”
AP teachers do have to submit a syllabus, but Matera said how restrictive it is varies by subject. “AP English teachers are very free,” she said. “I pick my own text and design my own writing assignments.”
A few years ago, South teachers were asked if they wanted to take on an IB program, and they said no, according to Matera. “”We like our AP courses. Students can do AP in one area and not in another. My understanding is the IB is a little more all or nothing.” Matera said she likes the AP structure because students can pick and choose which AP classes they want to take.