Public schools (both high school and college) often have to compete with private school in a number of ways. Public school graduates often feel inferior to private school graduates, regardless of the actual performance of the private school or its students. In some places, public schools have to compete with private schools for both students and funding.
Of course, private schools must operate in a way that attracts new students to their doors, but I think it’s important to understand that because the general public tends to have a biased view of private schools as “better” or more “forward thinking,” the decisions that they make around curriculum truly do influence the public opinion and expectations for what “the best education” looks like.
While AP courses leave a lot to be desired, for a lot of students, including myself, the worst AP course available to me [in my high school] offered rigor far beyond what was offered in the standard classes. Not to mention there are still so many students that don’t have access to even those.
AP courses offer public schools at least an objective measure of equitable access to rigor that can serve as a starting point to address the deeper issues that you do in your blog. However, if private schools are changing the “trend” and AP courses are no longer seen as a mark of rigorous coursework, how do we expect public students (especially from underserved schools) to compete?
If the AP courses I took in high school were dismissed as not being good enough by college admissions officers, I don’t know if I would have gotten the acceptances I did. I’m not saying that I even passed the AP tests – just the fact that I took the courses and did well in them were evidence that I performed well in the most rigorous coursework available to me.
So while private schools may be better to hold themselves accountable to ensure rigor without AP courses, I still believe [these classes] set the tone for public schools that still need objective measures of rigor for both accountability and equity.
Perhaps it would be important then for private schools who do choose to move away from AP to also take up the responsibility of developing and testing a measure of rigor to share with everyone else.