Continuing Support for AP Programs in Iowa

Students who participate in AP programs (1) stand out to college admissions, (2) earn academic scholarships and awards from colleges and universities, (3) perform as well or better in upper-level courses in the content area of their AP course(s), (4) earn higher GPAs in college, and (5) have higher college graduation rates, and are more likely to graduate college in four years or fewer (IOAPA Annual Report, 2018).

Even with the well-researched benefits of enrolling in AP courses, recent news reveals that 8 private schools in the Washington D.C. area are choosing to no longer offer AP programs. AP courses were introduced in the 1950s to offer opportunities for ambitious students to enroll in and receive credit for college-level work. The schools in the D.C. area argue that since approximately 40% of high school students enroll in AP courses, it is no longer true that AP courses are only for the exceptional students. These schools collectively investigated the potential impact of not offering AP courses on their students’ college applications, and stated that colleges simply care that the applicant took their high school’s most demanding course, and that the “AP designation itself is irrelevant.” Therefore, these schools are implementing their own system of advanced coursework.


this new curriculum method by no means is a “one size fits all,” especially for our Iowa schools. Districts with small enrollment sizes (<1000 students) comprises 67% of Iowa school districts2. Rural schools are often under resourced and unable to provide opportunities beyond the traditional curriculum. Because inequities in opportunities exist between rural and urban/suburban students, IOAPA serves to fill this gap.  IOAPA offers advanced courses and equal learning opportunities to all schools in Iowa. For many Iowa schools, AP programs are how motivated students are able to be challenged, and in other words, are able to enroll in the most demanding course offered. For Iowa students, IOAPA is a promising avenue for students’ educational future, as engaging in challenging high school curriculum is one of the best predictors of college completion.1

Referring to AP courses as a “diminished utility” is inaccurate because it “ignores the past 30 years in which public high schools have found AP, International Baccalaureate, and Cambridge, to be robust tools to challenge more students — about 2.7 million in 2017, including many exceptional ones who couldn’t afford private school. Enrollment officials from 13 universities including Yale, Michigan, Stanford and UCLA have rejected the eight schools’ contention that AP courses are of “diminished significance.” – Jay Matthews, an education columnist for the Washington Post.

1Adelman, C. (1999). Answers in the Tool Box. Academic Intensity, Attendance Patterns, and Bachelor’s Degree Attainment.
2Iowa Department of Education. (2017). The Annual Condition of Education Report. Accessed on: August 29, 2018.

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