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Testing the Reach of Higher Education

April 13, 2002

Re "Rapid Growth of Advanced Placement Classes Raises Concerns," April 7: Recent growth of the Advanced Placement program was fueled in the 1990s not just by students seeking to impress admissions officers but also due to the growing recognition by educators across the country that rigorous AP courses are the best preparation for college available.

AP can have the effect of upgrading the quality of the entire school curriculum as steps are taken to prepare students for intense course work, beginning in middle school and high school. These positive effects are most often seen in schools where students previously have been denied access to high-quality academic programs. As new and growing AP programs are implemented in more schools, it is not surprising that extra efforts are needed to ensure that they match the quality of long-standing, successful programs.

But the answer is not to step away from AP. It is to guarantee that schools, districts, states and the entire education community provide teachers with professional development, instructional resources and other educational supports. These resources can make high-quality AP experiences universally available. AP has become an important part of the educational landscape, and we welcome constructive criticism. Any program that puts forth high academic standards for students should be committed to nothing less than continuous self-improvement.

Gaston Caperton

President, College Board

New York City


The universities are complaining that students can pass the AP exams but still not know anything. Now substitute California High School Exit Exam for Advanced Placement and you'll understand what a waste of time and money Gov. Gray Davis has in store for taxpayers, students and schools. Schools are for learning, not test preparation. It's time to let our teachers teach.

Jeff McQuillan

Associate Professor of Education

CSU Fullerton


In "Test Case: UC Versus the SAT" (Opinion, April 7), Matthew Belloni presents the College Board's "courtship" of UC as "sudden" and the proposed changes to the SAT as driven by the UC, whose method is to "bully."

Thugs bully. Most educators, including College Board members, seek change through a deliberative, inclusive, usually collegial process that works toward a consensus over time. That is what happened between 1987 and 1994, the last time the SAT I was substantially revised, and that is what is happening now.

Besides, even UC President Richard Atkinson understands that substantive change will come to the SAT I only when he persuades college and university presidents nationwide that some other test will be better at predicting college success. We all would like to believe that California is the center of the world, but alas, it is not.

Kathryn M. Forte

Palos Verdes Estates

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