More and more high school students enrolled in the California community colleges (CCC) are requesting course credit based upon passing Advanced Placement (AP) Exam scores. In 2006, 2,266,038 students in the United States took an AP Examination with 405,711 of those exams being taken in California. Ten years later, the total number in the United States rose to 4,559,273 with California accounting for 743,280 of those examinations. In addition, recent legislation and changes in attitudes around awarding credit for prior learning has led to some confusion about awarding credit based on Advanced Placement Exam scores. The bottom line: the faculty role in determining college credit for AP is clearly a lead role, and it is important for faculty to agree upon a process for regular review of AP credit policies, and to know the resources available to help inform those decisions.
Several elements related to awarding college credit for AP are addressed in Title 5 §55052, including the district’s responsibility to award credit for an exam, the faculty role to approve Advanced Placement Exams, and the manner in which AP credit is noted on a student’s transcript. Also, with the recent passage of AB 1985 and the development of the CCC GE AP list, as presented in the Chancellor’s Advanced Placement (AP) Credit policy, colleges must now award general education area credit for minimum AP Exam scores of three. However, determining how a student’s score on an AP Exam translates into specific course credit in the major remains the responsibility of local discipline faculty, and faculty may require a higher score to award credit for a major requirement. The number of units to award for the course or courses aligned with the content and learning outcomes of the AP Exam, and the score a student must earn to receive credit in one or more courses, are just a couple of areas where discipline faculty must take a lead.
Since busy faculty may not always remember, or find the time, to prioritize a review of AP Exam credit standards, it is important to have in place a periodic, scheduled process for reviewing how AP Exam scores are applied at the department or discipline level. The timelines may vary by discipline, based on the frequency of student requests for credit. In addition, AB 1985 requires college districts to have a policy on advanced credit, and faculty should work with administrative partners to establish procedures for ensuring faculty determinations for course credit are made easily available to students in a course catalog and on the college’s website. There should be support at the heart of these processes from the local academic senate or the local curriculum committee working on behalf of the senate. The senate and/or curriculum committee’s role in approving faculty determinations should be a local decision.
RESOURCES FOR FACULTY
Several important and useful resources are available to faculty to support the conversation around determining proper application of AP Exam scores. There are a number of resources available at the College Board AP Central website  to support faculty discussions to determine equivalencies between AP Exams and local coursework. The website also provides valuable information about each AP course curriculum framework, description, and exam content. In addition, information about each of the AP Examinations can also be found online at AP Central , including exam development, question examples, and scoring information. These materials provide an invaluable resource to assist community college faculty to determine the comparability and alignment of AP courses and AP Examinations to community college courses.
Another important resource for community college faculty when establishing local AP policies are the policies of the the California State University (CSU) and the University of California (UC) systems. The CSU and UC systems have system-wide and local discipline courses specific to AP credit policies, and reviewing these policies can be useful when CCC faculty are developing and/or reviewing local CCC AP policies for credit. For example, if your CSU and UC feeder institutions award course credit for an AP Exam score of three in Psychology and that same course articulates to your college’s “Introduction to Psychology,” it would be appropriate to award the same credit for a minimum score of three.
Finally, your most valuable resource is your college Articulation Officer (AO), who can access the systemwide and campus-specific articulation agreements for local courses, as well as help research and explain the system-wide and campus-specific AP credit policies. The AO can help faculty understand the implications of awarding local course credit for an AP Exam score of three, as well as other more intricate and complicated questions around articulation agreements, which often vary between a college’s local CSU and UC.
Faculty should remember the following important practices when developing an approach to determining course credit for AP.
- Establish a regular review timeline for AP Exams. Curriculum and AP Exam materials change, and the faculty should systematically review for changes that might impact the application of course credit. Is this done in program review? Or does it occur when a course comes up for a regular review? How often a review occurs and who takes part is a local discipline faculty determination.
- Establish your rules. Will you allow multiple course credit for a single placement score? Will you place a cap on the number of units of credit a student can be awarded based on AP scores? Will the sole responsibility lie with discipline faculty to determine how transcripts from other colleges are reviewed and courses determined to be comparable to local courses? Does your college want the determination to be submitted to the curriculum committee and go to the board of trustees for approval? Whatever the decision, make sure it is in board policy.
- Consult with students. Those students who have been awarded credit can be important resources for understanding how their AP experience has prepared them for college work. Focus groups and surveys of AP students can provide useful information for counseling and discipline faculty.
- Do the research. Faculty should look at AP Exam scores and student performance in subsequent courses to determine how well students with AP experience perform when compared to their peers who did not earn credit with an AP Exam score.
- Know your feeder schools’ policies for awarding credit. What will your local UC do with a student’s AP Exam score? There are advantages and disadvantages to using AP Exam scores for subject credit only, or unit credit only, or as prerequisite waivers that faculty should discuss. Different UCs and CSUs apply scores of 3, 4, or 5 differently, and it is important for faculty to research CSU <https://www2.calstate.edu/apply/transfer/Pages/advanced-placement-ap.as…; and UC AP Credit policies and requirements < http://admission.universityofcalifornia.edu/counselors/exam-credit/ap-c…;.
- Let it be written. It is required by law that each college publish the CCC GE AP Policy and local GE AP list. The law requires this information to be posted on the college’s website, and the ASCCC encourages listing this information in the catalog, as well. It is good practice to include in this list all course-to-course AP equivalencies that the college awards. Also, if subject and unit credit are awarded, then, per Title 5 §55052, a notation on the student’s transcripts regarding how the credit was earned is also required.
AP RESOLUTIONS, ROSTRUM ARTICLES, AND ONLINE RESOURCES
The Academic Senate for California Community Colleges (ASCCC) has a long history of resolutions and Rostrum articles addressing AP questions. This short bibliography provides a few ASCCC and other resources to help faculty develop a process for establishing a consistent and evidenced-based AP credit policy.
S94 4.05 “Advanced Placement Three-Year Degree”
S05 9.03 “Application of Advanced Placement (AP) scores”
F06 4.02 “Advanced Placement (AP) Credit Policies”
F06 4.06 “Advanced Placement (AP) Equivalency Lists”
S08 4.02 “Standardized Template for Advanced Placement Exam Information”
S08 4.03 “Standardized Procedures for Determining Advanced Placement Exam Equivalencies”
S08 4.04 “CCC GE Advanced Placement (AP) Equivalency”
S09 4.01 “Adopt and Publicize California Community College General Education Advanced Placement (CCC GE AP) List and Template”
S16 18.03 “Local Determination of Advanced Placement Credit at California Community Colleges”
“Advanced Placement Examination Credit Policy for General Education” (April 2017)
“Establishing a Systemwide California Community College General Education Advanced Placement (CCC GE AP) List” (March 2009)
“Now Is the Time for Systemwide Advanced Placement (AP) Policies and Procedures” (February 2008)
“California Community College (CCC) General Education (GE) Advanced Placement (AP) List” (May 2008)
“AP, IB, 5-6-7, 3-4-5? What is it All About and Why Should Faculty Care?” (February 2007)