One of the best ways for students to get a jump on college studies is through Advanced Placement courses in high school, earning college credit for specific courses. But Louisiana has long lagged the nation in AP courses, in part because of a benign neglect for academically advanced students, and in part because of a misplaced incentive.
The TOPS scholarships that waive tuition at state universities were based in large part on grade averages, so a student wanting to go to college but near the grade-point cutoff had some incentive to stay in regular courses.
This was, ultimately, mostly counterproductive for the student. AP courses are more rigorous, but that better prepares students for success in college. Too many students, especially those barely attaining the modest academic standards for basic TOPS, don’t finish college, or at least not on time.
This AP deficit was recognized, and state leaders have helped to deal with the issues. More teachers were trained in AP courses and school performance scores were adjusted to make those courses beneficial, and not a potential drag on scores.
The state also ponied up some cash, paying AP test fees for students from poorer families.
While it is still tangled in the Legislature, a new bill would adjust TOPS to give credit for AP and other gifted education courses.
Education Superintendent John White reported that the AP push is helping. Students last school year took about 6,000 more AP courses. Those finishing the tougher courses and taking the College Board tests for college credit rose by a third.
This is good news and we commend the state education leadership for pushing the changes that are bearing fruit. More teachers have signed up for summer seminars on AP courses, so we hope that the trend will continue.