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Some Bilingual Students Prefer Dual Credit Courses Over AP Tests

Jon Shapley for KUT
Some bilingual students prefer dual credit courses to AP courses.

For many students trying to earn college credit in high school, choosing to take an Advanced Placement course or a dual credit course often comes down to personal preference.

Brenda Ortiz started high school in Austin High School’s Academy for Global Studies – an application-based academy on campus. She took a few AP courses there, but didn’t do well on the AP exams – despite doing well in the class and studying a lot:

“I worked really hard. Like I still have those AP cards. My professor, Mr. Warren, he had Saturday class sessions where you can go practice and learn more about AP exam,” she said.

Ortiz eventually switched out of the program because she wanted to take dual credit courses through Austin Community College. She was attracted to the free college classes, where she’d receive credit and save money. Her credits transferred to Texas State University, where she currently goes to school. 

Ortiz says looking back, dual credit was a better fit for her because English isn’t her first language, and she feels that’s a barrier.

“That’s something I don’t like about standardized tests in general – the words that are used. And, I think it’s important to keep in mind who you are serving,” Ortiz said. “I don’t think that gets a lot of attention.”

Ortiz says the phrasing and vocabulary on standardized tests can make it difficult if English isn’t your first language.

“It’s not like I don’t understand what the questions asking. And I can use context clues, but am I really absorbing what the question is asking me? AP exams are overlooking that. Maybe it’s on purpose – not that they have bad intentions,” she said. “I know exams are supposed to be very general. There’s not supposed to be a specific persona that they’re trying to test. But I think in this point, it’s really important to pay attention to what kind of students are taking your exams because it does affect whole dual credit versus AP experience.”

Ortiz says she liked dual credit more because she wasn’t just counting on one test to earn college credit. The College Board, which administers the AP Test, says it's thinking about how it could possibly offer AP exams in languages other than English. Edmund Oropez, the chief officer for teaching and learning in Austin ISD, says other English language learner students feel the same way.

“They do prefer dual credit over AP because of that reluctancy on the exam. They will take an AP Spanish class, versus a dual credit class because their confidence,” he said. “They already know the language. They can take the test and they’re going to get credit.”

AP Spanish is offered at nearly all AISD high schools. And, while KUT reported this week that many schools have low passing rates on AP tests, the one exception is AP Spanish. At Austin high schools, nearly all students are scoring well on the AP Spanish test.

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