Below-Average Level of Students Taking AP Courses, Exams

State Rep. James Roebuck, D-Phila., Democratic chairman of the House Education Committee, today outlined legislation that would expand access to and credit for advanced-placement classes in Pennsylvania.

“Pennsylvania has a below-average level of students taking AP courses and exams. Studies indicate that even students who take AP courses and score only a 1 or 2 on an AP exam – not enough for college credit – still perform academically better than students who have not taken an AP course,” said Roebuck, who outlined the legislation at West Philadelphia High School after visiting an AP class there.

“Based on existing data, training the estimated 885 teachers in our public schools needed to ensure that every high school in the state can provide AP courses in the four core academic areas would cost the state just over $1 million, at an estimated cost of $1,200 per teacher trained. If these 885 teachers taught just one AP class of 25 students and 60 percent of students obtain an AP exam score of 3 or higher, the students’ families would save nearly $17 million in tuition costs. This is a very conservative estimate of savings to these families and the state. The savings would more likely grow significantly for families and the state, as many of these teachers would be likely to teach more than one AP class a year.

“We can find the money to do this by using the $1 million the governor has proposed for a school-to-school mentoring program. This is a better use of that money,” Roebuck said.

“The College Board estimates that 60 percent of AP teachers will retire in the next 10 years, which adds urgency to this bill. Currently, 123 Pennsylvania high schools, or 18.5 percent, do not offer any AP courses in the four core academic areas — English, mathematics, science and social sciences. The largest vacuum is in sciences – 257 of our high schools, or 38.6 percent — do not offer any AP courses in that field.

“Under my bill, a school district seeking this funding would have to commit to providing AP courses in the subject area that the teacher is trained in for at least three years. If there is limited funding, priority would go to financially disadvantaged school districts that are more likely to have a greater need for teachers trained to teach AP courses.

“There has been much discussion of teacher quality and evaluations in Pennsylvania in recent years. This bill would help to address that: the AP training of these teachers would also count toward their professional development requirements, and this training has been shown to improve the quality of teacher instruction in both their AP and other non-AP courses.”

Roebuck also plans to introduce a bill that would require Pennsylvania public colleges and universities, including community colleges, to award academic credit to post-secondary students who have obtained an AP exam score of at least 3. The bill would cover community colleges and the 14 universities in the State System of Higher Education.

“We need to ensure that students who take AP courses and do well on the AP exams are not denied college course credits. This could mean significant savings in college costs for the families of these students. Another benefit to both the state and parents would be the increased likelihood that these students would graduate on time and not have to seek further state grants or loans to finish college,” Roebuck said.

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