Ask any student and they’ll tell you that AP classes have more homework than on-level classes. But is the amount of homework worth it?
I don’t totally blame the amount of homework in AP classes on AP teachers themselves. (I blame the College Board.) I think it would be responsible for the teachers to make an assessment of how much homework they’re assigning and be the adult and say when enough is enough. But I know the teachers are trying to manage very difficult expectations. I have found out some interesting things about AP that might help teachers to make an assessment of the worth of all the homework they’re assigning to fulfill expectations of the College Board.
Do AP students do better in college?
While it’s often repeated that AP students do better in college, it appears to be a statement that originates with the the College Board itself (the for-profit company that created AP). I long suspected all the studies I could find. To me, they showed correlation but not causation. Because when you have most of the top students in most of the schools taking AP classes, they are going to be most of the students who do well in college. On top of that, when I got an opportunity to talk to some college professors directly, more than one told me that college students are less capable than they were 25 years ago (when AP was less prevalent.)
In fact there is an excellent study out of Stanford that shows that it appears to be merely a correlation; it is really difficult to show causation.
Do AP classes save you money?
The College Board also claims that AP will save you college time and money. But how does that actually work out?
Our oldest child, a National Merit Scholar, graduated in 2016 with 42 hours of AP classes and dual credit taken. Compared to most of the advanced students at our high school, that was not an excessive number.
However, while his private university took 76% of those hours (32 hours) for college credit, only 36% of the hours (15 hours) took the place of required courses, the rest were counted as electives. (Only 12% of his AP hours fulfilled requirements, 66% of his dual credit fulfilled requirements.)
In total, his dual credit and AP classes may have saved him one semester of college work. That does represent some financial savings. But was there another cost to this work?
If he did 42 class hours worth of work for 15 class hours (approximately 4-5 classes), it means he did 3X more college work than he needed. While he was still in high school!
Is 3x the workload – a year and a half of hard work – really worth saving a semester?