Consider the effort to advertise value through advanced placement courses. For many, reformers tried to use the system as a handle for giving under-served learners an excellent acceptance edge. After all, in the last years of the last millennium, institutions seemed positive on learners with AP programs on their transcripts. But most AP programs were administered at private and suburban academic institutions. Consequently, reformers desired to improve their advanced placement course programs, knowing they could level the playing field by offering equivalent access to an elite product. Yet, the development of the AP Program did not advertise real equality between the academic haves and have-nots. Because once the AP Program achieved critical mass, it lost its performance as a sign of difference. Soon, ratings of institutions (Dartmouth being the latest) improved their guidelines around giving credit for AP training or favoring it in acceptance opinions. And eventually, top level suburban and private academic institutions started to drop the system, saying it’s obsolete, overly-restrictive, and too focused toward multiple choice assessments.
Consider now the recent move by the College Board to recover curricular importance and rigor to the AP product. Taking seriously the charge that advanced placement courses were no longer in line with educating methods in higher education, the College Board has redeveloped the system. The new program will motivate more work in technology laboratories and less parroting back of treatments, more work on traditional thinking and less recall skills of traditional details. That all appears to be very good. But it will do little to improve learning and educating, especially at academic institutions with low-levels of educational and management potential.
To be clear, these are excellent improvements and programs like advanced placement courses should continue to be enhanced and improved. But they will not take care of the further issues that impact academic quality and opportunity in the United States.