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AP classes vs. Dual Enrollment: Which is the tougher course?

AP vs. Dual Enrollment

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This is a tough one. A reader sent me a note about dual enrollment vs. AP classes. I have written about this ongoing debate before, which boils down to this question: Are college courses, for which students earn higher points toward their GPAs, as tough as the AP classes that kids take at their own high schools?

In a 2011 post, a Woodstock valedictorian wrote:

For the average ’smart kid’, entry level college course are not challenging. When compared to AP classes, they are even more laughable. My calculus exams at Kennesaw were composed of homework problems verbatim, so if I did my homework the weeks leading up to an exam, all I had to do was re-work them to get an easy A on my exam. My business law class allowed us to bring legal sized cheat sheets to every exam. I skipped an entire week of lectures right before an exam to go skiing and still managed to come back and get an A on the exam. My political science exams offered at least 25 bonus points on every test and the questions came straight from the book.

Is this what AP classes are like? Certainly not. I took some AP classes at WHS before deciding to joint enroll. They are incredibly difficult and it would be highly unlikely that anyone would get a 100 in them.

But, on the other hand, I shared a piece last fall by a teacher who wrote:

AP courses are not, in fact, remotely equivalent to the college-level courses they are said to approximate. Before teaching in a high school, I taught for almost 25 years at the college level, and almost every one of those years my responsibilities included some equivalent of an introductory American government course. The high-school AP course didn’t begin to hold a candle to any of my college courses. My colleagues said the same was true in their subjects.

My own take: It depends on the course and the college. Many intro college courses taken by high school seniors are not as demanding as AP courses. However, the math classes at Georgia Tech that some high school students take are more demanding.

Here is the reader's note:

I would very much like to see an article or editorial from you discussing the weight given to AP classes and dual-enrollment classes in high schools.

 This graduation season, I know of several local students who had been at the top of their class for their entire high school career, are their school’s STAR student, and are generally considered to be the best academic student at their school; but they are passed over for valedictorian or even salutatorian by someone with more dual enrollment classes.  This seems to occur because students are able to get credit per semester for a college course, but many AP classes only give credit for the full school year.   So a high school senior getting all A’s in 5 full year AP classes could easily be surpassed in class rank by a dual enrollment student taking 5 colleges classes each semester getting some B grades.

 It is my opinion that the rigor of AP classes (which are designed for the top students) usually exceeds the rigor of community college dual enrollment classes (which are not designed for top students) and AP classes deserve more weight for the year and not less.

 Anyway, I would very much like to see a reasoned and informed analysis of this along with the implications for the individual students, the schools and Georgia as whole.  I always enjoy reading you and look forward to seeing this in the paper.

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