How Advanced Placement Cheats Students w/ Annie Abrams

April 22, 2023
We've ceded a lot of power to a single company and a single brand - AP - to determine our educational goals, values, & practice.

This conversation is nearly a year in the making, from the first messages with my guest back in 2022 - which also happened to be the last of my 9 years teaching AP European History. That year there were over 4.7 million AP Exams taken by 2.6 million students from 23,000 secondary schools. At about $100 per exam…well, you don’t need to get a 5 on the AP Calc exam to finish that equation. And…here we are again, another high-stakes time of the academic year for yet millions more high schoolers seeking college credit from the College Board. 

From AP to SAT, the College Board is a billion dollar educational gatekeeper that plays an outsized role in American education in policy and practice, K12 and beyond. In fact, as my guest today outlines in her book, many states have passed laws requiring the College Board play exactly that role: mandating that schools offer a minimum number of AP courses (that require AP trained teachers), offering cash incentives for student test scores, & dictating to universities what scores they will be required to accept for which credits.

Even more recent partisan challenges to curriculum, like the rejection of AP African-American History by the Florida Dept of Education, should also cause us to reflect on the homogenizing and controlling influence of what has become a de facto national curriculum, AND the metrics we use to evaluate success, AND the ways we assess & award credit, AND the philosophies & pedagogies we use in classrooms with students. Somewhere in the recent past, figure & ground inverted, and we not only lost track of what was important -  the best intentions of what courses like these could represent - but along the way we ceded a lot of power to a single company and a single brand - Advanced Placement - to determine our educational goals, values, & practices from the top down.


Annie Abrams holds a doctorate in American literature from NYU and is currently on childcare leave from her job as a public high school English teacher. She writes in the introduction to her brand new book Shortchanged: How Advanced Placement Cheats Students.


Shortchanged: How Advanced Placement Cheats Students from Johns Hopkins University Press

Annie Abrams Twitter

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