Cheating in Advanced Placement Classes

My son is a senior at a high school that loathes Advanced Placement classes. The school administrators believe that AP classes provide students with knowledge that’s a mile wide and an inch deep. Considering that AP classes demand a lot of memorization and must be taught at a breathless pace to get through the material, I’d have to agree.

Students attending schools that don’t offer AP classes, however, can be at a disadvantage because they may not get the same opportunities to inflate their grade point averages. An “A” in an AP class gives a student a 5.0 for the class rather than the typical 4.0.

High GPAs are golden because that’s what colleges are most interested in seeing on a student’s application. Ask any admission counselors and they’ll tell you that a GPA is more important than an applicant’s SAT or ACT scores.

Parents at my son’s school aren’t screaming about the lack of AP classes because it offers honors classes that also generate the much desired 5.0 grade. What concerns me, however, is why some students are taking AP or honors classes.  I’d suggest that a lot of kids are enrolling in these classes to boost their GPAs rather than to learn more advanced material.

That’s certainly what seems to be happening in my son’s calculus class this semester. He’s taking honors calculus, but so are a lot of other kids who don’t even know how to factor. To survive this class some of these teenagers are getting Ben to explain the lessons and just as often they are cheating.

I think Ben’s school and others with an open door policy for honors and AP classes are setting many kids up to cheat and perform badly. At these schools, students can get into advanced classes even if they are unprepared. It’s part of an open enrollment movement shamefully encouraged by  Newsweek, which issues an annual list of the best public high schools that’s based on the percentage of seniors taking AP exams.  You’d think the magazine would be more interested in measuring whether high schools are doing a superlative job of teaching students of all abilities rather than rewarding those which herd the most kids into AP classes — as if that’s some kind of accomplishment all by itself.

Further Reading:

Why Teens Take AP Classes

A Great Addition to Advanced Placement Classes

Scarsdale Adjusts to Life Without Advanced Placement Courses

Lynn O’Shaughnessy is the author of The College Solution, an Amazon.com bestseller.

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2 Responses to Cheating in Advanced Placement Classes

  1. JDrek October 16, 2009 at 4:04 am #

    “You’ve made it clear that you don’t like AP classes despite the fact that your school and son apparently have no involvement with them. Now you’ve titled your post “cheating in Advanced Placement classes,” though the article deals only with kids who are apparently cheating in your son’s honors class.
    I was an AP psychology teacher. Was the course broad? Absolutely. It was a college-level introductory course that required the kids to know exactly what a college kid taking the equivalent course would have to know.
    I think your criticisms of AP’s expansion are valid. Too many unqualified kids are taking AP classes. But, I think overall you’ve painted AP with too broad a brush and need to more critically examine whether you are prejudging the program without all the facts.”

    This helped a lot.

  2. Patrick Mattimore September 25, 2009 at 10:29 am #

    You’ve made it clear that you don’t like AP classes despite the fact that your school and son apparently have no involvement with them. Now you’ve titled your post “cheating in Advanced Placement classes,” though the article deals only with kids who are apparently cheating in your son’s honors class.
    I was an AP psychology teacher. Was the course broad? Absolutely. It was a college-level introductory course that required the kids to know exactly what a college kid taking the equivalent course would have to know.
    I think your criticisms of AP’s expansion are valid. Too many unqualified kids are taking AP classes. But, I think overall you’ve painted AP with too broad a brush and need to more critically examine whether you are prejudging the program without all the facts.

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