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Dartmouth to Stop Accepting AP Credit in Fall 2014

Part of the appeal of taking Advanced Placement classes in high school is that students can save time and money in college.

But Dartmouth College decided to stop the practice of granting college credit based on AP test scores, after faculty members voiced concern that the high school courses weren't as rigorous as what the college offered, according to an Associated Press story Thursday.

Dartmouth won't give credit, but it will continue to offer exemptions and placement in some subject areas based on AP exam scores, according to a newly updated policy on the school's website. The policy is slated to go into effect in the fall of 2014.

The Dartmouth faculty had been mulling over a change in AP policy for more than a decade before this vote, the AP reports. Dartmouth officials point to an experiment on campus as an illustration of how the AP preparation in high school does not match college-level courses.

Instead of giving credit for an introductory psychology course to freshmen who got the highest score on that subject's AP test, Dartmouth administered a condensed version of its own final psychology exam. Ninety percent of students failed. When those high-scoring AP students went on to take the introductory course, Dartmouth found they performed the same as those without high AP test scores, the AP story says.

That is an anecdote, not a research study, says Trevor Packer, senior vice president of AP and college readiness for the College Board. "Researchers are quick to point out that is a probably a highly problematic methodology," to give students a test on a subset of the college course material long after they look the AP course in high school, says Packer.

The Dartmouth findings are in contrast to peer-reviewed evidence that demonstrates AP courses to be comparable to the finest introductory college courses, he says. Packer cited a study that found students who scored a 5 (the highest grade) on the AP exam earned a full grade higher in subsequent courses than their peers.

The College Board learned of the Dartmouth news through media reports. "We are eager to hear details about any potential AP policy change. There are a number of questions and we are eager to talk with Dartmouth and learn more," says Packer, adding that the College Board had prepared a letter Friday to send to the New Hampshire Ivy League college about the issue.

The College Board, which administers the AP, markets the value of the exam in part on the premise that most four-year colleges give credit or placement on the basis of AP exam performance.

In light of the Dartmouth policy change, will there be modification in how the College Board portrays AP courses as a way to obtain college credit? "Absolutely not," says Packer. "AP courses are college-level courses, designed by college faculty, scored by college faculty. Any description to the contrary would simply be false."

Policies regarding the acceptance of AP credits vary by college. To search for the AP policies at a certain school, the College Board has an online tool for students.

Each year, about 2 percent of colleges change their AP policies—half making them more liberal, half changing them to be more restrictive, says Packer,

AP exams courses are offered in 34 subjects and last year, 3,308 colleges received AP scores from students for credit, placement and/or consideration in the admissions process, according to the College Board.

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