Perhaps Florida Expanded Their AP Program Too Quickly

I recently read an article on TampaBay.com that indicated the Florida State Education Commissioner, Eric J. Smith, acknowledges that Florida may be over enrolling students in Advanced Placement classes.  For a little while now, Florida has been criticized for having a much lower pass rate than the national average on the year end exams (43% compared to 57% this past year) .  Many believe this is attributed to Florida’s desire to grow the AP program by opening the courses up to more students.  In the past decade the number of exams administered in Florida rose from 70,346 exams 1999 to 260,162 exams  in 2009 compared national increase from 1,122,414 exams in 1999 to 2,860,912 exams in 2009.  This means that the number of exams in FL has grown a factor 3.70 of while the nation has grown a factor of 2.54.  The number of exams administered in Florida have grown about 45% faster than they have across the nation.

Why have Florida’s number of exams grown so much faster than most of the other states? (AR and WA grew at a higher rate) Florida has made a concerted effort to encourage students to take exams.  They have gone so far as to pay the exam fee for all students and require that all students who are enrolled in an AP course take the exam, a policy that Arkansas also has.

Has the cost been worth it?  At a cost of $56.00 per exam, assuming every student were on free/reduced lunch, the cost to provide exams for all students was over $14.5 million.  Many would argue that this money might be better spent. With the pass rate being so much lower than the national average the argument only gets louder.  In challenging economic times this money might be better spent on training teachers who teach these AP courses.

If Florida is going to continue this program, they are going to need to increase the rigor in courses leading up to the Advanced Placement courses.  The only way that students will perform better is to be better prepared.  If AP is going to be pushed to all students, the expectations in all classes leading up to th AP courses will need to be raised.  My belief is this policy of requiring students in AP courses to take the exam and to pay for the exams will not last, not with the current state of the economy and the poor pass rate.

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