While I appreciate letter writer Linda Jacobs' position regarding Advanced Placement courses, for her to call them foolishness is excessive and lacks any appreciation of what the purpose of an AP course is ("AP courses don't equal education," Jan. 22).
The purpose of an AP course is to prepare a student for an AP exam. However, you don't have to take an AP course to take that exam, although it is recommended. Different colleges have different standards for accepting AP credits. Most state universities, including the University of Maryland, require a score of 4 or better on an AP exam to get credit for that course.
This is a high benchmark to achieve since many students who take AP exams fail to meet that requirement and then have to take the college level course in order to receive credit. However, even students who don't meet the benchmark for getting college credit are more likely to excel when they retake the course in college.
The curriculum of the AP course and subsequent exam more closely follow the curriculum of the college level course, and Ms. Jacob's assertion that they do not prepare a student for college any better than a high school honors-level course does not correlate with the data.
AP courses are a welcome academic tool because they save parents real money. College today is so expensive. The University of Maryland alone costs up to $25,000 a year if you live out of state. An AP exam only costs $70. That's a huge cost differential. Even community college is substantially more expensive than an AP exam.
If a high school student can use AP to gain a semester's worth of college credits, that translates into real money. My daughter just graduated from UM College Park in three and a half years because she walked in with 15 AP college credits. I was able to use that money to send her abroad for a semester without robbing from her younger brother's college fund.
Not all AP courses are equal, and parents and students need to do their homework to determine which courses will advance the student's college career and which won't. For example, I don't like the way AP calculus is administered. They commingle differential and integral calculus on the same AP exam, while all the colleges teach those subjects separately.
Most people don't need integral calculus to graduate from college and wouldn't take that course unless they are going into a math or science major. In order to get a 4 on the AP calculus exam a student has to know material from both subjects. That's not fair.
Also, the AP statistics course only counts for a 100-level credit, when the graduation requirement is for the 200-level class. So that AP credit is a waste of time and money.
However, the other AP subjects do count toward freshman perquisites and are a good deal for parents and students on a budget. I wish the College Board would expand its AP offerings.
Brad Schwartz, Olney
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