STANFORD -- A nonprofit organization in the Stanford Graduate School of Education is reporting that the Advanced Placement program -- which offers college level courses in high schools and is a factor considered by many colleges in making admissions decisions -- may not live up to its claims.

In a report released Monday, Denise Pope, co-founder of the Challenge Success group and senior lecturer at Stanford, said her organization found no clear proof that the College Board's AP Program helps students succeed in college.

"The direct association between AP classes and college admission is not precise," she said in a statement, "and several researchers recommend that a student's AP experience should not be disproportionately weighed in making admission decisions."

Pope said her analysis was based on more than 20 research studies, as well as her own organization's research.

Trevor Packer, a senior vice president at The College Board, which administers the Advanced Placement Program, said in a statement that Pope's analysis was one-sided and failed to accurately cite a 2004 study.

"The problem with Ms. Pope's analysis is that she fails to separate studies that analyze the benefit of simply taking an AP course (regardless of grade or exam score) from studies that analyze the benefit of learning enough to succeed on the AP exam," Packer said in a statement.

He agreed that there are other factors that may contribute to AP students' success, such as "prior ability, background, school characteristics and academic interests."


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"Accordingly, The College Board never makes the claim that simply taking an AP course will lead to increased college success," Packer said. "A level of learning must be attained through an AP course in order for that experience to contribute to a student's college readiness."

The paper also asserts that AP courses may not narrow the achievement gap or level the playing field for traditionally underserved schools, unless they are accompanied by additional support for students, such as tutoring. Schools should allow students to transfer out early if they do not feel well-suited to AP classes, according to Pope.

The paper is available for free download at www.challengesuccess.org.