To the Editor:
While it is appropriate for the College Board to have held a national audit of Advanced Placement course syllabuses, instructor qualifications for Advanced Placement teachers are not given the significance that is basic to college teaching (“Number of Schools Offering AP Falls After First Audit of Courses,” Nov. 14, 2007). AP teachers generally are very good high school instructors, but many do not have the graduate-level credentials required by postsecondary institutions to teach college courses.
Teaching from a collegiate-level syllabus does not ensure that one has the content knowledge required to teach a college course. Moreover, AP teachers are sometimes assigned courses that are not even in their areas of academic background. A syllabus can provide curriculum guidelines, but it is not a substitute for the instructor’s content expertise.
This deficiency is at the root of the problems students experience at many colleges and universities when AP test scores are not accepted for credit as anticipated.
As the director of the University of Connecticut’s office of educational partnerships, I oversee its large concurrent-enrollment program, Early College Experience, which is accredited by the National Alliance of Concurrent Enrollment Partnerships. Our students earn University of Connecticut transcripted grades for the courses they take at their high schools from instructors who have been certified by university faculty members from more than 25 departments. (Ongoing professional development at the university is required for continued certification.)
While many instructors also teach AP classes, we must often turn down the applications of otherwise excellent teachers with AP experience. It is not uncommon for us to have an instructor with a physics degree apply to teach chemistry for us on the strength of having taught AP chemistry, which is not a sufficient academic background for certification.
College-credit options for high school students are proliferating. It is important for the public to understand the differences among them.
Gillian B. Thorne
Office of Educational Partnerships
University of Connecticut
A version of this article appeared in the December 05, 2007 edition of Education Week as College-Credit Options: Explain the Differences