A Hearty Celebration for AP’s 60th
A Hearty Celebration for AP’s 60thLiam Julian, Director, AP Instruction Communications
Benjamin Fine, writing in the New York Times in July 1956, reported on a new program that allowed ambitious students to receive college credit while still in high school. Advanced Placement, Fine wrote, was a “tremendously significant experiment”—could high school students actually do college-level academic work? “The answer,” Fine concluded from the early data, “appears to be ‘yes.’”
Yes, indeed. Sixty years later, in May 2016, more than 2.6 million students took over 4.7 million AP Exams.
Trevor Packer, the College Board’s senior vice president for AP & Instruction, shared these and other AP data during his plenary presentation at last week’s AP Annual Conference in Anaheim. Among the interesting information Packer noted from the 2016 AP Exam administration:
- AP Human Geography was the AP course that grew the most in volume from 2015 to 2016, increasing its total number of examinees by more than 25,000.
- AP Comparative Government and Politics was the AP course whose mean exam score increased the most from 2015 to 2016, from 2.86 to 3.08.
- AP Physics 2 was named the 2016 AP course of the year for its simultaneous growth in student access and performance: the number of AP Physics 2 exams increased by 29 percent from 2015 to 2016, the largest year-over-year percentage growth, while the mean exam score increased from 2.77 to 2.89 over the same period.
- Several exams have doubled student access while increasing mean exam scores over the past decade.
Packer was joined on stage by Dr. Nat Malkus, who shared the results of his own AP-related research—research that led him to conclude that AP “might be the single happiest education story of the century.”
Packer also welcomed Drs. Beth Harris and Steven Zucker, cofounders of SmartHistory, a nonprofit organization that offers free, AP-aligned online resources for the study of art and cultural heritage. Harris and Zucker have focused for the past several years on creating videos and assembling essays on the 250 artworks covered in the AP Art History image set. The professors captivated the APAC audience, conversing, in their inimitable style, about two works in the AP Art History image set: Thomas Cole’s painting The Oxbow (1836), and the Ryoan-ji temple and gardens in Kyoto, Japan.
Finally, Packer introduced three students—two of whom had traveled from the Middle East—to talk about their individual AP Research projects. One student had investigated intervention strategies to help families with a parent struggling with drug-addiction remain united; another established a computer lab in the West Bank; and the other used a 3-D printer to build a prosthetic hand for an amputee.
While these three young women presented, the room was silent, but when they finished speaking, the applause was deafening. Can high school students do college-level academic work? The answer still appears to be yes.