On one wall of my cubicle is a large chart extracted from Tom Luce and Lee Thompson's 2005 book "Do What Works: How Proven Practices Can Improve America's Public Schools." It shows that a study of 78,000 Texas students found college graduation rates much higher for those who, while in high school, took Advanced Placement exams -- but failed them -- than those who took no AP exams at all.
At this point, you may be saying, "Huh?" We AP wonks are an odd breed. We often cite statistics that make no sense to normal people. But I will try to explain this one, and why it was greeted with such excitement by AP teachers four years ago.
AP courses are given in nearly 40 subjects. They allow high school students to earn college credit, or at least skip college introductory courses, if they do well on the final exams. Many AP teachers argue that students' grades on the three-hour exams, given in most U.S. high schools every May, are not as important as taking the college-level course and exam and getting a taste of college trauma. Many of their students who flunk the AP exam still report, when they come back to visit after their freshman year of college, that the AP experience made it easier for them to adjust to fat college reading lists and long, analytical college exams. They may have failed the AP exam, but by taking it, and the course, they were better prepared for the load of stuff dumped on them in college. When they took the college introductory course in the subject that had been so difficult for them in high school AP, they did much better.