Why Have Systemwide Advanced Placement (AP) Policies and Procedures?
The number of students enrolling at California Community College (CCC) campuses with AP scores and requesting "course" and general education "area" credit for these scores is ever-increasing and the current budget climate is sure to lead to even more UC and CSU-bound students beginning their higher education at CCCs. Of the estimated 2.7 million students who graduated from U.S. public schools in 2006, 406,000 (14.8 %) earned an AP Exam grade of 3 or higher on one or more AP Exams while in high school. This is up from 14.1% for the class of 2005 and 10.2 % for the class of 2000. (College Board Press Release 02/06/07) While there may be disagreement among faculty as to whether a score of 3 is truly predictive of college success or indicative of having learned the equivalent of what is accomplished in an introductory college level course, we are seeing more and more students with credit-worthy AP scores who are desirous of credit for their work and we are obligated to grant such credit in a thoughtful and unbiased manner.While we can toil away in our collegebased silos and develop our own approach to handling AP scores, wouldn't it be far simpler to adopt one policy that has undergone systemwide scrutiny and is consistent with our transfer partners? Wouldn't a system approach to AP policies and procedures just simplify our lives?
Not only would a system approach simplify our lives, it would simplify the lives of our students. As we well know, community college students often attend more than one college and the awarding of AP credit differs notably among and between community colleges. The ultimate question is how can we provide our students the benefit of systemwide standardized AP policies and procedures while preserving the autonomy of the discipline faculty who are responsible for determining AP course equivalencies.
Why a CCC GE AP List
Now that there is an IGETC AP list as well as a CSU GE AP list and both transfer AP lists are aligned, it seems only logical to have a CCC GE AP list that is also aligned with the transfer GE AP lists. A systemwide CCC GE AP list could provide students and counselors a clear and consistent reference as to how AP scores can be applied for general education at all of the 109 colleges. As all CCC campuses are required to have the same minimum GE requirements for an Associate Degree (Title 5 55063. Minimum Requirements for the Associate Degree), establishing a common process for awarding GE credit for AP should be quite simple.
Currently, students may receive associate degree general education credit at one college but not at another because there is no course equivalency at the second college or the faculty have not established an AP GE "area" equivalency.
If a CCC GE AP list is instituted, students will know that regardless of which of the 109 CCC campuses they choose to attend, or how many CCC campuses they attend, their AP will fulfill the same general education requirement at every college regardless if a "course" equivalency exists or not.
The challenge with instituting a systemwide GE AP list is that there may be conflicts between what individual campus faculty determine are acceptable AP scores for their campus "course" equivalencies and the cut score determined for the CCC GE "area" equivalency. If the CCC GE AP list, like the CSU GE and IGETC AP, accepts scores of 3 or higher for fulfillment of CCC GE "area" equivalencies and specific campus faculty require an AP cut score of 4 for "course" equivalency, the student may be forced to take the course if it is a prerequisite for other courses, ceasing to benefit from his/her AP work and, potentially, re-learning what was covered in the AP course.
Such a dilemma currently occurs on a number of CCC campuses with respect to awarding AP credit for the first semester of English composition. In a recent survey of CCC articulation officers with 70 of the 109 California Community Colleges responding, 58 colleges required an AP English Language and Composition cut score of 3 for their freshman English composition "course" equivalency. At a college that requires a cut score of 4 for the first semester English composition course equivalency, a student with a score of 3 in the AP English Language and Composition can receive CSU GE and IGETC GE `area' equivalencies, but not the first semester English "course" equivalency. If such a student wants to take the next level English composition course, he or she will have to take the first semester English course. Although this is an unfortunate situation, fortunately it is not the norm for the majority of CCC campuses.
Local discipline faculty are encouraged to consider the impact on students as they establish cut scores so as to not create unintended complexities for students.
If there is a desire to establish a higher cut score for course equivalencies, be sure that this is academically justified.
Although there are challenges involved in developing a CCC GE AP list that aligns with the CSU GE and IGETC AP lists, the benefits for students far outweigh the few conflicts that may occur. It would benefit students if those discipline s with conflicts could work through a systemwide setting (regional representation) to determine the same appropriate cut scores for both "course" and GE "area" equivalency.