|By Dave Berry on Saturday, February 02, 2002 - 09:11 pm: Edit|
From the February 1 New York Times: High School Drops Its A.P. Courses, and Colleges Don't Seem to Mind. To whet your appetite for this article, here's a one-paragraph excerpt:
"Harvard concurred. "We look at whether the applicant has taken the high school's most demanding courses," said Marlyn McGrath Lewis, its director of admissions. "But whether the classes are designated as A. P. or not is irrelevant. Abolishing A. P. classes won't hurt the kids."
|By Rhonda on Monday, February 04, 2002 - 09:13 am: Edit|
Two thoughts -- first, this would appear to work in a school that's well-recognized by the top schools, or at least where the school makes an effort to explain their decision and the difficulty level of the classes in their school profile. In other words, they need to have adequate, recognized "AP substitute" classes. Second, one thing students may lose under this approach is the ability to place out of distribution requirements and earn credits for AP scores, unless of course they're willing to prep for and take AP tests independently. Overall, it seems like it is working for this particular school.
|By Dadster on Monday, February 04, 2002 - 09:41 am: Edit|
This approach might work for a private school with high standards and a strong administration, but I think it would be risky for most schools. Performance on AP tests is one way to measure how effective a teacher is and at what level the material is being taught. Without such measures, a class titled "American History" might mean anything or nothing. It's easy to imagine standards deteriorating over time in the absence of a suitable yardstick.
|By Dave Berry on Monday, February 04, 2002 - 10:17 am: Edit|
Agreed, Dadster. AP courses are known benchmarks. Rhonda's point about top high schools (probably privates and magnets) being most likely the best candidates for dropping APs is well taken.
In the public-school sector, student AP test performance is a good general indicator of teacher effectiveness. The NEA may well jump on the drop-the-APs bandwagon and encourage this trend to spread. If the NEA is fighting mandatory teacher-qualification examinations, why shouldn't they embrace this opportunity to shuck one more performance indicator?
|By Linda Sanders (Shennie) on Monday, February 04, 2002 - 04:18 pm: Edit|
Well - here is another point of view. I live in Madison, WI. A few years ago I was at a function for parents and middle school students. I ended up eating lunch with a group of parents who were mostly professors at the university. All of them were not terribly enthusiastic about AP classes. They found that students who took the classes and placed out of the introductory classes struggled more in the upper level classes. (Most of these folks were science and math people.) Several stated that they found this to particularly true for Calculus AB and BC. According to these teachers, college freshman taking 3rd semester Calculus during the first semester freshman year were often overwhelmed and at a disadvantage to other older students. The material moves at a much quicker pace since it all has to be fit into a semester rather than over a year. The science professors would prefer to not give credit at all for AP science classes, but it is often out of their hands. Our highly respected area high schools do not offer many AP classes and I think it is because there is not a big push from the community to do so.
An AP class standardizes the curriculum, but in no way guarantees that the class is taught well or that is even being taught by a person who is well versed in the subject. Our high school does not teach AP English, but the students who take advanced English classes do well on the AP exams. In my son's AP French class, he needs to do some work outside of class. If he completes the work, he gets AP on his transcript; if not, his transcript reads French 5, but the material covered in class is exactly the same no matter what the transcript says. I think the quality of instruction is the most important factor, not whether the class is officially AP or not.
|By Dadster on Tuesday, February 05, 2002 - 09:12 am: Edit|
Good points, Linda. Offering an AP course alone is no guarantee of quality. I see the value of AP classes not so much in placing out of intro college classes as in a measurable standard of knowledge. Many of the elite schools don't accept AP classes or college-level high school classes at all. Even at schools that DO accept them, I think there's a risk of the student getting swamped by placing into a class that's too difficult or simply assumes knowledge based on the college's own prerequisite rather than the high school material.
The risk in doing away with AP classes (and AP testing) is that some schools and teachers will get away with calling anything an advanced class. Sure, a really great teacher may feel hampered by having to teach the test-oriented curriculum. On the other hand, a lot of average teachers are forced to insure that the students gain some minimum level of knowledge to take the tests.
In some schools, the administration is so afraid of the teacher union that they teachers have free rein to teach what and how they want to, regardless of how ineffective that might be. At least the AP test pass rate is an objective indicator of whether the teacher is minimally competent.
|By David Hawsey on Tuesday, February 05, 2002 - 04:36 pm: Edit|
80,000 high schools, various levels of support for honors and AP classes (if any at all) grade inflation, and anything but a standardized way of teaching and then assessing learning overall.
Add to that 3,300 four-year colleges and universities that treat admission information 3,300 different ways (which is their right to do so), and we have a loud and severe case of dissonance going on between what parents, teachers and students think is important to colleges, and what colleges think (singularly or togther) is important.
Linda has it right: The quality of teaching, not the "label" attached to the course (AP, Honors, etc,) is paramount. So it goes with colleges: forget the label or perception of prestige. It's the quality of teaching that counts the most, one-to-one, teacher-to-student!
|By Dave Berry on Friday, February 22, 2002 - 11:10 am: Edit|
It's been a good day for pertinent topics in the Chronicle of Higher Education. In case you need further evidence of qualifications inflation in the area of elite admissions, check this summary for a longer (at least currently) password-protected Chronicle article:
"HARVARD UNIVERSITY has become the first university in the United States to deny advanced standing to incoming students who earn anything less than the highest possible score of 5 on Advanced Placement examinations. AP tests are used to determine if a student has sufficient grasp of a given subject to forgo introductory college course work in that subject upon enrolling."
Looks like a "4" will cut it no more. What's next...DNA tests for evidence of royalty in the applicant's family tree?
|By Linda (Shennie) on Friday, February 22, 2002 - 11:26 am: Edit|
Dave - Maybe we should look at it another way. Maybe elite colleges are saying that you need AP level classes in high school because they will help to prepare you for our introductory classes. In other words, maybe the curriculum covered in the intro courses at the elite schools is beyond what would be covered in a HS AP class. Therefore, the schools can say that we want you take these type classes and do well in them but we will not give you credit for them because our curriculum starts at a level beyond that. I am just hypothesizing here, but it might be the case.
|By Rhonda on Friday, February 22, 2002 - 11:39 am: Edit|
May I be cynical for a moment? Harvard doesn't want too many kids to earn enough credits to graduate a year or even a semester early -- all that lost tuition!
|By Dave Berry on Friday, February 22, 2002 - 12:34 pm: Edit|
Counterpoint, Linda: Why then--regardless of McGrath Lewis's "Oh, we don't care if you have APs or not" rhetoric (cited in recent newspaper reports)--do many aspiring Harvardians start accumulating their 8-12 APs in 10th grade? The answer is that Harvard has just fired the first shot in another elite-credentialism skirmish that will move them just that much farther beyond the grasp of mortally desperate seniors, thus making H just that much more desirable. Do I sound cynical? If so, good. I think Rhonda knows from whence cometh I.
From the Chronicle article:
"We simply discovered in our most recent review that a 4 in the AP program does not correlate with good preparation for Harvard's advanced courses," said Marlyn McGrath Lewis, the university's director of undergraduate admissions. "People who have 4's don't perform like they are prepared for the next level, and people with 5's do. Even a 5 is not really equivalent, but it is more nearly equivalent."
Gee, I thought APs were designed to get a student over the hump of introductory courses, not "advanced" courses. Hmmm. Maybe MML is implying that Harvard's frosh courses are superior to other colleges' "less-than-advanced" intro courses. I guess that's the reason why all those current Harvard undergrads who scored 4s on THEIR AP exams are now graduating with honors in record droves from The Big H. **maniacal laughter**
Touche, Ms. McGrath Lewis.
|By Shennie (Shennie) on Friday, February 22, 2002 - 08:20 pm: Edit|
To be honest, I have never been terribly impressed with Harvard and would never suggest any kid apply there, but what do I know...
|By Sheny Lucas on Wednesday, May 01, 2002 - 05:27 pm: Edit|
One reality to consider is that in many top high schools (public and private) there are classes superior to standard AP preparation. For example, I am taking an Advanced Economic class which requires maybe 30 pages of reading per day plus ability to discuss subtle themes of economic theory that go far beyond anything the AP would cover. The point that emerges, I feel, is that real learning is always superior to prestige and those pursuing knowledge will eventually reach it's source and look beyond social norms. An AP course or exam is neither good or bad, it has little effect I feel, except to enlighten innate abilities in some and put short-term pressure on others. I do not plan to use my 7 AP exams to test out of anything. I took them to challenge myself in the situation I was in. College will be a whole new game.
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