Do AP Tests Count ... Even When the Teacher is Terrible?

Question: What is the impact of AP test scores on college admission? My high school sophomore is in a year long AP class where the teacher was replaced with a new teacher who admits that she does not know the material adequately to teach the class. The school has been looking for a qualified teacher, but nothing has happened so far. We (parents) have been told by school administrators that the AP test scores have no bearing on college admissions so we do not need to worry that a score of 1 or 2 will make our child look bad. However, my daughter is a straight A student with excellent standardized test scores, so a very low AP test score will be out of character for her. She has been maintaining an A grade in the class. What is your opinion?

“The Dean's" opinion is that the administrators at your daughter's school are either pretty clueless themselves or are hoping that you parents are! AP test results can definitely count at college-verdict time. Granted, colleges do not require the scores, and some admission officials will downplay the role of AP tests if asked directly about their importance. But at many colleges—especially the hyper-competitive places where the majority of candidates have tip-top grades and SAT or ACT scores and where hair-splitting decisions must be made—the AP exam results can serve as a “tie-breaker" to help admission committees discriminate among similarly qualified applicants.

Last year there was a situation at my local public high school that was nearly identical to the one you describe. A top-notch AP Bio teacher left unexpectedly and was replaced by an incompetent sub. Soon the sub left, too—recognizing her own inadequacies—and then other short-term fill-ins followed suit.

Because of the major snafu—and due to pressure from parents—the administration agreed to make the AP test optional for this group of befuddled biologists, although the culminating exams are ordinarily mandatory for all AP classes at this high school. I don't know if some of the students took the test anyway … or how they fared, if they did. The scuttlebutt that reached me through the grapevine was all about kids bailing on the test like rats abandoning a sinking ship!

Likewise, I suggest that you and your fellow parents prevail upon the powers that be to offer this AP exam to those who wish to take it, but it should not be an imperative. Then, when it comes time for your daughter and her classmates to apply to college, the transcript should include a brief note explaining that students in this particular AP class did not take the corresponding exam because of staffing problems for which the school accepts responsibility.

Good luck as you fight City Hall!