College Board Explores New AP Exams in STEM Subjects

New AP courses could include engineering, energy, environment, and anatomy.

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The College Board is exploring the possibility of offering new advanced placement (AP) courses in STEM-related subjects, according to the nonprofit's president, former West Virginia Gov. Gaston Caperton.

At U.S. News's Making Science Cool event last Tuesday, he said the organization was "exploring the potential of more AP courses in engineering, energy, environment, and anatomy." Don't look for the new subjects anytime soon. Development of a new AP course can take up to six years as teachers and professors develop class curricula and the AP exam before smaller groups pilot the new course, according to Trevor Packer, senior vice president of AP and college readiness for the College Board.

In an E-mail, he said the potential new courses Caperton mentioned are still a while off. He said the organization is "still exploring the degree to which US colleges and universities would be interested in the possibility of providing high school students with college credit in these areas."

Currently, AP courses are offered in a variety of STEM-related subjects, including biology, calculus, chemistry, computer science, environmental science, human geography, physics, and statistics. According to the College Board's website, a new course focusing on computer science principles is in the works.

Packer said the viability of a new AP course depends on two things: "desire among colleges to provide college credit for a course offered in high schools, and capabilities in high schools to offer that course at a high degree of quality." A new AP course would likely require funding from a corporate or government partner. In the past, the National Science Foundation funded the development of AP computer science and a curriculum redesign in biology; National Geographic partnered with the organization to design the human geography course.

Caperton said the College Board would place a larger emphasis on STEM going forward.

"The College Board has made STEM education one of its very top priorities," he said.

Besides potential new courses, Caperton said existing exams may be changed to incorporate more practical testing.

"We are in the process of shifting the focus of AP science courses to emphasize not just what students know, but what they can do—the process and practice of science," he said.

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