AP A Critical Examination of the Advanced Placement Program

Edited by Philip M. Sadler, Gerhard Sonnert, Robert H. Tai, and Kristin Klopfenstein
paper, 256 Pages
Pub. Date: April 2010
ISBN-13: 978-1-934742-55-6
Price: $33.00

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AP draws together the most recent and rigorous research on the strengths and weaknesses of the Advanced Placement program.


Comprehensive research and analysis that will frame the conversation about Advanced Placement and other rigorous college preparatory curricula for years to come; critically important for students, teachers, and public policy makers alike. — William Fitzsimmons, dean of admissions and financial aid, Harvard College

American science and mathematics students continue to be outperformed by their international counterparts. The typical suggested remedy: to increase enrollment in AP courses. Policy makers and practitioners need to consider the findings of this book and reevaluate the purpose of the AP program. — Dennis M. Robbins, associate professor of science education, Hunter College (CUNY)

Advanced coursework, standardized testing, college readiness, time to degree, and related cost-benefit considerations are timely issues for academic and legislative decision makers. The editors offer a rich collection written in an accessible style that will be an essential resource for school administrators, admission and guidance personnel, and policy analysts. — Louise Lonabocker, editor-in-chief, College and University, and executive director of student services, Boston College

As a parent, college advisor, AP Biology teacher, and AP [exam] reader, I gained many insights—some affirming and others disconcerting. Sadler’s eloquent summary recommendations should be read in every school that offers or is considering offering AP courses. I will be recommending AP to many colleagues. — Paula Petterson, science teacher and head of college advising, Ridgeview Classical Schools, Fort Collins, Colorado

With education becoming more competitive, schools are encouraging more students to take AP classes as to improve their ranking on national surveys. This book provides research and advice to guide schools on what is best for their students. — John Morrison, AP physics teacher, Troy High School, Troy, Michigan

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About the Editors

Kristin Klopfenstein earned her PhD in economics from the University of Colorado and is currently a senior researcher at the University of Texas at Dallas Texas Schools Project while on leave from a faculty position at Texas Christian University. She uses Texas’ extensive student-level administrative database to study factors influencing the preparation of traditionally underrepresented students for postsecondary education and the workforce. Her most-cited research examines the access to and impact of the AP Program for low-income, rural, black, and Hispanic students in Texas. Klopfenstein’s work has been funded by the Spencer Foundation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Communities Foundation of Texas, the National Science Foundation, and the U.S. Department of Education.

Philip M. Sadler earned a BS in physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1973 and taught middle school science and mathematics for several years before earning a doctorate in education from Harvard University in 1992. As the F. W. Wright Senior Lecturer in Astronomy, Sadler teaches graduate courses in science education and undergraduate science at Harvard University. As head of the science education department at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, he carried out work that informs national policy debates on the teaching of science and professional development of teachers. Sadler has won awards for his research from the Journal of Research in Science Teaching, the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, and the American Institute of Physics. His research interests include assessment of students’ scientific misconceptions and how they change as a result of instruction, the development of computer technologies that allow young people to engage in research, and models for enhancement of the skills of experienced teachers. He was the executive producer of A Private Universe, an award-winning video on student conceptions of science, and is the inventor of the Starlab Portable Planetarium and many other devices used for the teaching of astronomy worldwide. The materials and curricula that he has developed are used by an estimated fifteen million students every year.

Gerhard Sonnert is a research associate at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and associate of the department of physics at Harvard University. After receiving a doctorate in sociology from the University of Erlangen (Germany) and an MA in public administration from Harvard University, he entered the Harvard physics department in 1988 and conducted Project Access, a major empirical study of women’s careers in the sciences. In 2006 he joined the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, where he has investigated the effects of high school experiences on beginning college students’ intentions for a career in the sciences and has also studied the factors influencing students’ success in college calculus courses. Among his books are Who Succeeds in Science? The Gender Dimension (1995, with the assistance of Gerald Holton), Gender Differences in Science Careers: The Project Access Study (1995, with the assistance of Gerald Holton), Einstein and Culture (2005), and What Happened to the Children Who Fled Nazi Persecution (2006, with Gerald Holton).

Robert H. Tai is an associate professor of education at the Curry School of Education at the University of Virginia. He earned a BS in physics and a BA in mathematics from the University of Florida, an MS in physics from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and an EdM and an EdD from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. His research agenda, which focuses on science education and scientific workforce issues, spans the range from grade six to postgraduate study and has been published in a variety of journals, including Science. He was a member of the 1995−1997 editorial board of the Harvard Educational Review and was the recipient of the 2008 Award of Leadership in Educational Research from the Council of Scientific Society Presidents. Prior to entering academia, Tai was a high school physics teacher for three years in Illinois and Texas.

Editors Sadler and Klopfenstein on NYTimes.com Room for Debate

Education Week: Book Trains Critical Eye on AP Program's Impact

Excerpt from Introduction (PDF)

Table of Contents (PDF)

Inside Higher Ed: AP: Good but Oversold?

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