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Shoot this trial balloon down before it makes any headway

By Staff | Feb 16, 2023

Gov. Ron DeSantis puffed up a lead balloon this week, saying that perhaps the state should consider replacing Advanced Placement courses with, well, something else.

Maybe the International Baccalaureate program. Maybe the Cambridge Assessment program. Maybe some other vendor. And there’s always dual enrollment, which allows qualifying students to take college courses while still in high school, he said Tuesday in a press conference in Jacksonville.

The comments concerning the nationwide AP program offered and administered through the AP College Board come in the wake of a couple of actions, one blocking an AP course on African American Studies, the other upending the direction of the state’s honor college, New College of Florida in Sarasota.

Any bid to opt Florida out of the College Board’s AP program or reallocate its funding elsewhere is more than concerning: It is frightening.

The program is a national one, recognized by nearly all colleges and universities throughout the U.S.

In 2021, 1,178,256 public high school graduates – 34.9% — took at least one AP exam, up from 898,134, or 28.6%, as compared to the class of 2011, according to the College Board website, collegeboard.org.

Of that Class of 2021 total, 758,842, or 22.5%, scored a 3 or higher on at least one AP exam, meaning they not only took what is essentially a college-level class but mastered the subject matter.

According to that same report, “students from all backgrounds, including those with average scores of 1 or 2, are more likely to enroll in a four-year college compared to academically similar students who did not take AP.”

An AP score of 2 means the student is “well prepared to succeed in introductory college courses” and will “perform as well or better in introductory college courses, compared to academically similar college peers” who did not take the AP course, the site states.

Not only do the courses prepare students for college at top institutions across the country, they actually can provide them with college credits, depending on the course taken and a particular college’s AP policy.

What types of classes?

More than three dozen AP classes are offered to students nationwide. Courses include classes in the arts, English, history and the social sciences, math and computer sciences, science, and world language and cultures.

Everything from art history and music theory to calculus and Latin.

Key here is that this is a nationally recognized and universally accepted offering with 31 states — including Florida — supporting the program financially to the benefit of the public school students the state educates.

It allows participating students to demonstrate a commitment to their education, earn college credits, skip introductory courses or graduate earlier than they might have had the opportunity not been available to them at the high school level.

Let us be clear: There is no comparable, nationwide, academically accepted replacement.

Our students should not be left out — especially in the “Free State of Florida” where the governor himself has said parents should be in control of their children’s education, not bureaucrats and certainly not politicians with an agenda.

We know of no public outcry, not even a whisper, for a statewide opt out of the AP program.

We know of no public outcry, not even a whisper, to legislatively shop for some other alternative — which, we point out, any parent can do now as there are schools that offer the International Baccalaureate program and the Cambridge AICE program here in Lee County.

This trial balloon needs to be shot down now.

We urge parents who are invested in the education of their children, college bound or not, to provide the needed ammunition with loud and vigorous protestation.

— Breeze editorial