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Learning in the Fast LaneThe Past, Present, and Future of Advanced Placement$
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Chester E. Finn and Andrew E. Scanlan

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780691178721

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: May 2020

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691178721.001.0001

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Does Platinum Bend? Standards under Stress

Does Platinum Bend? Standards under Stress

(p.155) 9 Does Platinum Bend? Standards under Stress
Learning in the Fast Lane

Chester E. Finn

Andrew E. Scanlan

Princeton University Press

This chapter argues that the greatest asset of the Advanced Placement (AP) program over nearly seven decades has been its capacity to set and maintain lofty academic standards for high school students and to sustain those standards during times when many forces push to relax them. That is an extraordinary accomplishment, considering all that has happened in American education during this period. Academic standards of various kinds have become a big deal, a growth industry, and an endless source of controversy, especially when accompanied—as they usually are—by student tests. Advanced Placement's nongovernmental character is rare in the world of education standards, at least since 1989. That was the year that state governors and President George H. W. Bush convened in Charlottesville, Virginia, and emerged from their “summit” with an ambitious set of national education goals for the year 2000. Congress created the National Council on Education Standards and Testing to “explore the desirability and feasibility of establishing national education standards and a method to assess their attainment” and a National Education Goals Panel to monitor and report on how the country was doing in pursuit of the summit targets. Many complications, modifications, and pushbacks followed. Ultimately, the entire quarter-century sequence left many hostile both to governmental micromanagement of schooling and, especially, to anything that smacked of government-prescribed standards, curricula, and tests. With just a few exceptions and caveats, the AP program has been immune to this suspicion, rancor, and resistance.

Keywords:   Advanced Placement program, academic standards, high school students, American education, student tests, education standards, national education, curricula

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