District 207 offers more than 30 Advanced Placement (AP) courses which provide high school students the opportunity to engage in college-level coursework and earn college credit and course placement while at the same time accessing the academic supports available in each of our buildings. AP is not a “program” per se; AP courses are open to all students who have demonstrated the potential to succeed in a college-level course and all students who are college-bound are encouraged to take an AP course prior to graduation.
Additionally, District 207 offers Dual Credit courses in partnership with multiple colleges and universities including Oakton Community College, Harper College, and the Illinois Institute of Technology. Dual Credit courses provide students with an opportunity to study college level courses offered through official agreements between District 207 and partner colleges, universities, and post-secondary institutions.
Why take an AP course or a Dual Credit course?
White Paper: The Value of AP Courses and the Value of Dual Credit Courses
Dr. Shawn P. Messmer
Advanced Placement (AP) courses and Dual Credit courses both offer high school students the opportunity to gain college-level knowledge and skills, but they differ in their approach and benefits. The following is an introduction to each category and the benefits of each.
What are AP Courses?
AP courses are designed to offer students a college-level curriculum and prepare them for the corresponding AP exam. These courses provide a challenging and rigorous educational experience with a focus on critical thinking, analysis, and problem-solving. Taking an AP exam at the end of the course can lead to earning college credit if the student scores a 3 or higher on the AP exam. AP exams are scored on a scale of 1 through 5. AP courses are not actual college courses but are recognized universally as college-level.
What are Dual Credit Courses?
Dual credit courses allow students to earn both high school and college credit by completing college-level coursework at a District 207 school, with a District 207 teacher, who is an adjunct professor of the partner college or university. These courses provide a challenging and rigorous educational experience with a focus on critical thinking, analysis, and problem-solving. Earning a grade of “C” or higher grants the student college credit and begins the student’s college transcript and GPA.
Academic rigor is relative and should be treated as such. Each individual student enters school with talents in various areas that may or may not be emphasized in a traditional academic school setting. District 207 believes all students have academic talent and it is the job of the school system to cultivate that talent. What is rigorous for some may not be rigorous for others and therefore making a blanket statement regarding what is and is not rigorous renders it immediately a false construct by which to judge the ability and success of individual students. That said, postsecondary institutions place value on what they consider “rigorous,” of which AP and dual credit courses are considered the most rigorous.
Both AP courses and dual credit courses vary in the level of rigor. Some AP courses are considered more widely accessible than others based upon the content and skill required to complete the course successfully and the same is true of dual credit courses. For example, AP Psychology is considered more accessible to a wider range of students than AP Calculus BC, just as a dual credit Baking and Pastry course is more accessible to students than a dual credit course in Objects and Algorithms in computer science.
It is important to remember that taking AP courses and dual credit courses is not an either/or, it is a both/and, and should be informed by a student’s career and postsecondary goals.
The Granting of College/University Credit:
In the State of Illinois, the College and Career Success for All Students Act guarantees that all public colleges and universities in Illinois must grant credit for an AP score of 3 or higher as either elective credit, general education credit, or major requirements. This can mean different things at different Illinois public colleges and universities. For example, Oakton Community College accepts all AP credit for its equivalent course/s at the community college, but the University of Illinois may grant credit based upon a student’s major area of study. For example, a student may get credit for AP Calculus in the math department if the student is a liberal arts major, but may not get credit in the math department if the student is an engineering major. This law does not apply to private colleges or universities. So the value in terms of credit earned and money saved depends upon the postsecondary institution and what a student decides to pursue as a major.
The same is true of dual credit courses that are not part of the Illinois Articulation Initiative (IAI). The Illinois Articulation Initiative guarantees that public colleges and universities in Illinois grant one-for-one credit to students who take courses designated as IAI throughout the public college and university system in Illinois. For example, a student who takes Multivariable Calculus and Differential Equations in District 207 will be granted credit for that actual course at both Oakton Community College (the credit granting institution with which we partner) and any Illinois public college or university. The majority of courses that we teach in District 207 are IAI courses so that they have the most transfer currency for our students.
District 207 offers dual credit courses that are not IAI, but nest into a certification offered by Oakton and/or Triton Community Colleges. This is important because certifications are terminal, meaning that once they are granted they cannot be revoked, so there is no danger of a student losing college credit should they go on for another degree beyond a certification.
Important to note is that when transferring from a community college to a four year college or university, the institution to which a student is transferring will re-evaluate the credit granted by the community college through AP courses using its own policy IF the transferring student has not earned an associate’s degree or certification.
To see how AP coursework credit translates at the college and university of your choice, use the AP Credit Policy Search Engine. To see how dual credit coursework translates at the college and university of your choice, use the Illinois Transfer Portal.
The cost of taking the AP exam is $96. Students are not required to take AP exams, but if they hope to earn college credit they must take the exam and score a 3 or higher.
The cost of taking a dual credit course varies depending upon the partner college or university. Most of our partnerships are with Oakton College and the cost is a one-time $25 application fee and there is no cost for individual courses. Eastern Illinois University charges the student $96 per course to match the fee of an AP exam. District 207 assumes the cost of textbooks and resources for dual credit courses and it is covered in yearly school fees.
Benefits of Taking Early College Coursework – AP & Dual Credit Courses:
Both AP and dual credit courses offer a challenging curriculum, AP courses may result in college credit and dual credit courses almost always result in college credit, they provide students with college-level material and rigor, preparing them for future academic success in postsecondary institutions. Taking AP and dual credit courses in high school can be more cost-effective than taking the same courses in college, as students may receive college credit without paying for the full cost of the college course.
Impact on Postsecondary Admissions:
Colleges and universities take many factors into consideration when accepting students. There are several misconceptions that are important of which to be aware. Colleges and universities ARE NOT COMPARING YOUR STUDENT TO OTHER STUDENTS IN THE AREA. Colleges and universities are comparing your student to other students in their school. They are looking to see if your student took a rigorous course load based on what is offered at the school they attend.. They are looking at your GPA in the context of how your student’s school reports student GPAs. They are evaluating a student’s essay and life experiences. They are guided by their own mission statements in that things like socioeconomic status, race, and ethnicity, and where you live all may factor into whether a student is or is not accepted. Parents and caregivers are encouraged not to stress over their child’s admission to a college or university as they will never be able to understand why their student was or was not accepted to a postsecondary institution and that is by design.
Postsecondary education is a match to be made, not an award to be won.
AP courses and dual credit courses both offer high school students unique benefits and opportunities and provide a challenging and rigorous academic experience with the potential for college credit. If a student is interested in pursuing college upon graduation from District 207, it is a good idea to have experienced at least one AP or dual credit course while in high school as it gives the student the opportunity to experience college-level coursework and still have the supports that are absent in college and university settings. AP and dual credit courses provide students with the opportunity to demonstrate their mastery of college-level material and potentially earn college credit which can lead to reducing the cost of a postsecondary certificate or degree.