Guest blog: Public Higher Ed Blocking AP Pathway to College Success

Just about everyone who works in or participates in the field of education understands the need for equity in all aspects of teaching and learning.  We hear about the need for equity in the quality of the learning environment, equity in access to rigorous curricula, equity in access to instructional technology, and equity in the quality of teaching on a daily basis.  We have rightly spent significant amounts of time and energy redefining systems and programs to ensure equity for all students.

I worry that parents, students, and many colleagues across the Commonwealth are unaware of a different form of inequity plaguing some of the best and brightest students in our state.  This has to do with how their qualifying Advanced Placement exam scores are (or are not) honored at various colleges and universities within the UMass and public higher ed system.  One would assume that high school transcripts are similarly received at all of our state institutions of higher learning; but that is not the case.  In fact, some of our state schools accept a qualifying score of 3 on a particular AP exam while others do not.  For example, UMass Lowell credits students who earn a 3 on the AP Calculus exam but UMass Boston does not.  Framingham State University accepts a 3 on the AP US History exam but UMass Amherst requires a minimum score of 4.  Because the College Board identifies a qualifying score on any AP exam at 3 or higher, this inconsistency is baffling.

The inequity caused by lack of consistency isn’t just in the credit itself.  In Revere, we have often touted our AP courses as providing college access to students who might not otherwise be able to afford tuition because they can earn enough credits to actually skip a semester—or even more depending on the number of AP exams on which they earn qualifying scores.  The acceptance (or not) of qualifying AP scores impacts whether or not kids believe they can afford to go to college in the first place; but it also has implications for post-college student debt – a construct that has left many American college graduates in financial crisis.

Legislation has been filed to address this inequity.  I strongly support these bills, S. 762 and H. 1206, and have joined students, teachers, and community leaders to show our support for adopting a consistent and fair AP college credit policy.

As I’ve already mentioned, we are talking about our best and brightest students.  They will all do great things – if they have access to the requisite education.  These students will likely meet the entrance requirements for the UMass and public higher ed system.  And they are more likely to graduate, live, and work in Massachusetts.  They are our future workforce, homeowners, and neighbors.  It is time for Massachusetts to do what more than 30 states have done already and pass a consistent and fair policy that would make the awarding of AP credit equitable for all students who score or 3 or higher on the AP exam.