A Florida High School Student's Response to DeSantis' Ongoing Battle With the College Board.
Article Written by Jett James Pruitt
In a news cycle filled with UFOs, deadly earthquakes, and escalations in the Russo-Ukrainian War, it's the headline of Governor Ron DeSantis threatening to pull all AP courses from Florida that keeps me up at night.
As an 11th Grade high school student living in Palm Beach County, Florida, I can tell you first hand that not all advanced classes are created equal. In fact, AP courses are the closest thing to having a standardized curriculum across the country, and highly selective colleges use AP course grades and exam scores as a way to evaluate candidate performance across all geographic regions and socio-economic backgrounds.
Given that AP courses are offered at every type of secondary school, it also equates the educational differences between private and public high school students. For example, an AP Biology exam score of 5 from a public high school student in Idaho is just as good as an AP Biology exam score of 5 from a private high school student in New York because they both studied the exact same curriculum, and in some cases, took the exact same test on the exact same day.
In a press conference on Monday addressing his ongoing concerns over controversial subjects covered in the Advanced Placement (AP) program, Governor DeSantis claimed there are "other vendors" who can provide the same level of accelerated college credit as the College Board, specifically mentioning options such as the International Baccalaureate, Cambridge International, and Dual Enrollment — which couldn't be further from the truth.
As a Florida high school student who has already taken 8 AP classes and 7 Cambridge International courses before entering my senior year, I can tell you that these two programs are nothing alike.
AP courses cover three times as much material as my Cambridge courses over the span of a school year, and the challenging AP exams are graded by American high school teachers who understand how American students write. On the other hand, my Cambridge courses (which I love) go narrow and deep into subjects, but are graded harshly by teachers in the United Kingdom who clearly hate when students use American spelling or cite outside knowledge to answer questions.
Most notably, not one of the 12 out-of-state universities on my proposed college list will accept my 7 Cambridge International classes for credit, whereas all 12 institutions recognize my 8 AP classes, and nearly half will exempt me from taking them over again due to my high AP exam scores.
In fact, at one smaller college, I have already attained enough AP credits to save an entire year of college tuition.
In contrast, the majority of Cambridge International AICE classes offered in Florida called "AS Levels" are only accepted at a handful of institutions, including all Florida universities and a few colleges in Arizona and Washington State — that's it.
All other institutions around the world only accept the other type of class offered by Cambridge International called "A Levels" and most require a minimum of three A Levels to provide credit. Very few high schools in Florida offer three A Level courses because each one is two-years long with the same teacher, and thus, require two-year teaching contracts.
As such, my high school offers zero A Level classes for this very reason. It's a shame too because I absolutely enjoy my Cambridge International AICE courses and teachers more than anything else at school. But no one outside of my state seems to recognize the program as rigorous or an equal to AP courses.
Despite this, Florida high schools that only offer AS Level classes still mislead parents and students into thinking their AICE credits will be accepted worldwide like AP courses, when it is only A Level classes that are widely accepted.
Even the Cambridge International website boasts that "Cambridge qualifications are accepted at over 1400 institutions across 195 countries, including top ranking universities around the world." But only upon doing extensive research in Cambridge's Recognition and Credit Policy Search Database will prospective students realize that only A Level courses are recognized by the vast majority of colleges listed, not Florida's ubiquitous AS Level classes.
More shockingly, not even the University of Cambridge itself accepts Florida's Cambridge AICE Diploma comprised of AS Level courses. For American applicants, Cambridge University requires a minimum of five AP scores of 5 with an SAT score above 1500 or the International Baccalaureate Diploma in order to apply.
Therefore, Florida's Cambridge AICE Diploma is absolutely worthless to attend the British university that invented it. Even they require College Board AP and SAT exam scores just to apply.
More importantly, the Cambridge International program is designed for those educated within the British system, and is extremely difficult for those educated outside of it.
For example, in June 2019 (pre-Covid) a whopping 46.4 percent of international students who live outside of the United Kingdom (including Americans) failed the Cambridge History Exam, 50.5 percent failed English Literature, and 18 percent failed Biology.
Last year, in June 2022, American failure rates were 32.1 percent for Psychology, 32 percent for Marine Science, and 26.8 percent for English Language.
Florida public colleges and universities gladly accept all Cambridge passing test scores of A-E, encouraging students to take these difficult exams at all costs, even if "straight A" students achieve the lowest passing grades of C, D or E.
But when Florida students apply to universities out-of-state or out-of-country that require the reporting of all standardized test scores, their low Cambridge exam scores can destroy an otherwise flawless college application.
DeSantis' other suggested AP course replacement, the International Baccalaureate (IB) program, is another European curriculum offered in less than 1,000 schools nationwide. Created in Switzerland to mirror the French education system, it is more widely accepted overseas, but requires Florida students to apply in 8th grade and gives them little flexibility in taking more traditional American classes in later grades.
Most notably, final IB exams are taken at the end of Senior Year, about four months after college applications are due — meaning IB exam scores cannot be used as a means of impressing colleges. Although rigorous and well-respected by most universities, the IB program covers a limited number of subject areas, and once again, does not reflect or reinforce the American style of learning.
And finally, DeSantis' suggestion of replacing AP courses with Dual Enrollment or DE classes (community college classes taken while in high school) only makes sense if a student plans to stay in Florida for college. Highly selective universities are aware that teaching and instruction varies in quality from state to state, and therefore value standardized AP and IB classes over DE classes each and every time.
So how can DeSantis think that two European programs will be able to replace the AP program which is specifically designed to help American students succeed?
Isn't he about "America first"?
The bottom line is that if Florida students are not able to take AP courses, they will not be competitive at a national level . . . Perhaps this is his plan all along?
Does my Governor want young Floridians to have no choice but to attend college in-state? Does my Governor want to keep future talent from being indoctrinated by out-of-state universities and poisoning the well of "The Free State of Florida"?
How can my Ivy League-educated Governor — who was named "AP US History Student of the Year" and graduated from both Yale and Harvard — not be thinking about students like me who have sacrificed our childhoods just to get into great colleges?
As someone who values American ideals and freedoms, I will continue to fight for my right to receive the best education my hard work will earn me. I think an ambitious Governor with sights on a 2024 presidential run can totally respect that.
What are your thoughts? Please share this article with your comments.
Born in 2005, Jett James Pruitt is a Native American (Taino Arawak), Pulitzer Prize-nominated author of the book Through The Eyes of a Young American. He is the founder and editor-in-chief of TheGenZPost.com, and is a political strategist specializing in Generation Z voting trends. His next book The Progressive Conservative is due in bookstores later this year.