Recruit and Retain: The Future of Education

Teacher Preparation Pathways for AP

Advanced Placement (AP) subjects are taught by qualified high school teachers. The College Board does not require teachers to have special training but does recommend it. Course syllabi, though, must be approved. There are strict, AP-specific guidelines but they are applied at the course level.

In recent years, there has been a focus on providing rigorous college-level opportunities for all high school students, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds. Some states have regulations in place regarding teacher training; they generally also have funds set aside for training. Some states award monetary bonuses to AP teachers when their students score well on AP exams. Often decisions about assignment of educators are made at the local level.

Meeting General Requirements for Secondary School Teaching

In order to be licensed or certified to teach secondary subjects, teachers must hold degrees at the bachelor's level. Typically, they have a major, or the equivalent of a major, in the subject area. They complete educator preparation programs that meet their own state's standards. These may be part of a bachelor’s degree program or a separate step competed afterward. Teachers are generally required to pass several assessments, including an assessment of subject area knowledge. Some teachers demonstrate competency in multiple subjects; often they are ones that are closely related.

Teachers generally have annual evaluations by their principals which are based in part by formal observations of their teaching. Many states have a tiered system with progression from the initial to the professional level dependent on experience and successful evaluation.

Professional development is ongoing. Many teachers pursue National Board certification and/ or degrees at the master's level. In some states, these lead to a higher license, one that is above the professional level. These represent two ways of increasing and signaling expertise in particular areas. Neither, however, are AP mandates.

Teachers are assigned to teach subjects that they are legally qualified for and may be assigned particular subjects on the perception that they are especially well qualified. They may express interest in teaching particular courses.

Qualifications and Traits of Effective AP Teachers

The College Board advises administrators who are interested in bringing AP to their schools to select teachers based on interest (as well as state-specific certification requirements and availability). It recommends they plan for selected teachers to complete professional development over the summer.

An in-depth 2005 report by the College Board, based in part by surveys of AP biology and history teachers, reported that a majority had volunteered.

Experience was a factor in effectiveness. The College Board noted that teachers were generally less effective in their first three years; the experience factor tended to level off after about five years but professional development could keep it going. The College Board cited research that indicated that developing one’s knowledge of teaching methods could be even more important than developing subject knowledge (though they considered the latter important as well).

A frequently cited challenge: Teachers must cover a tremendous amount of material in a prescribed period of time. The College Board noted that effectiveness depended in part on striking a good balance between depth and breadth.

Professional Development

Professional development is regarded as being among the most important teacher qualifications, though AP seminar and AP research (both termed interdisciplinary) are, as of late 2018, the only courses with mandatory professional development requirements instituted by the College Board.

The College Board offers AP workshops and summer institutes. There is also an AP mentoring program. The College Board website includes links to various resources. The College Board has endorsed some outside providers specifically for professional development for computer science principles. AP teachers can participate in the AP teacher community (

Securing AP Course Approval

The evaluation process is called course audit. Teachers who intend to teach AP courses submit their syllabi. Syllabi are reviewed by college faculty who teach equivalent courses. If a syllabus is not approved, a teacher can resubmit it after making revisions. The College Board has provided resources for use in curriculum planning (

AP Subjects

The College Board makes more than 30 AP subjects available. They can be grouped in the following categories:

  • English
  • Science
  • Arts
  • Math and computer science
  • History and social sciences
  • World languages and cultures
  • Interdisciplinary

Individual schools sometimes face challenges in offering even a few AP options. Some states have statutory provisions to increase AP availability.

State AP Mandates

The Education Commission of the States has provided a state by state comparison of AP policies (

West Virginia teachers maintain eligibility by attending an Advanced Placement Summer Institute every three years or meeting other requirements for a state-issued Advanced Placement Credential. The state makes the institute available through the West Virginia Center for Professional Development (WVCPD); teachers can opt to attend other similar institutes.

Mississippi teachers attend a summer institute every five years unless they are exempted on the basis of serving as AP readers (scorers).

Arkansas requires AP teachers to attend a College Board Advanced Placement Summer Institute at least once during every five-year period. A teacher who is issued an Additional Training Plan (ATP) for Advanced Placement may begin before meeting the requirement,

Kentucky mandates professional development for AP teachers. The state provides training opportunities in exchange for a small commitment.

Some states have moneys allocated for training (and mandates) that are based on the populations served.