CNN article on AP courses





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Discus: Parents Forum: 2004 Archive - Part 2: CNN article on AP courses
By Marite (Marite) on Wednesday, August 25, 2004 - 08:38 pm: Edit

From the CNN website:

Academic arms race
Are Advanced Placement courses growing too fast?

Sunday, August 22, 2004 Posted: 6:47 AM EDT (1047 GMT)


http://www.cnn.com/2004/EDUCATION/08/22/advanced.placement.ap/index.html

By Dstark (Dstark) on Wednesday, August 25, 2004 - 08:45 pm: Edit

Marite, do you think if you learn something at age 19 instead of age 17, you are in trouble?
I think it is fine to challenge people, but what happened to the high school experience being important in and of itself?
The person taking 5 AP couses should just go to college.
I know your son has taken many college level courses.
Don't you think sometimes if that is what he wants, why bother with high school?
So now, I am kind of discussing both sides.
You have opinions.
You posted this link.
What are they?

By Texas137 (Texas137) on Wednesday, August 25, 2004 - 09:28 pm: Edit

being ready for college courses is a totally different thing from being ready to leave home and go live on your own on a college campus on the other side of the country.

By Backhandgrip (Backhandgrip) on Wednesday, August 25, 2004 - 09:57 pm: Edit

A super generation. One which will conquer cancer and genetically manipulate everything here on this earth- which by the way took millions/billions of years to create in the first place.Oh Dio!

By Marite (Marite) on Wednesday, August 25, 2004 - 10:00 pm: Edit

I just posted this link so that other posters could read it and form their own opinions. It's not an endorsement.

The expansion of AP has not led to a lot of scrutiny of its results. One author, William Lichten of Yale, argued that the expansion had caused a dilution of standards. He looked specifically at AP-English. But that's the only critical analysis I've seen.

I personally have been troubled by the number of students, who, in their senior year, load up on APs so they will have nice transcripts, but have no intention of taking the exam. This is particularly true when AP grades are weighted. As the article said, AP classes vary in quality. I've actually seen that in our hs. Two AP-Chem classes. In one, every single student took the AP test, in the other, just two students took it.

I have other concerns about APs in the humanities. They are too shallow. They are one mile wide and one inch deep. BU Academy, a private school associated with BU, does not offer AP classes. But its students do take the AP exams and excel, because the classes it does offer are tough (juniors and seniors are encouraged to take classes at BU). So why will I let my S take AP US History and AP English? because they're the only rigorous classes available. My S took a non-AP senior English class last year on top of his 10th grade World Literature (he was not allowed into AP USH or AP-English). He doubled up so as to fulfill the 4-year English requirements. That senior English class was no harder than his 10th grade English class, which was not very hard to begin with.

There are other problems at our school regarding preparation for AP but they are specific to our school. The one good thing is that all students are encouraged to take APs. In the past, this policy allowed ill-prepared students to take the classes, with the result that the classes were slowed down. A program is being introduced this year to better prepare marginal students to take the AP classes, so that should preserve access while improving student performance.

I agree that a student who is taking 5 AP courses ought to be in college. When I read posts from students wondering whether taking 5 APs will be considered rigorous enough, I start to feel that college will be a sinecure for these kids. They'll have half the workload and they will be able to drop most of the ECs they pursued in order to impress adcoms.

By Alongfortheride (Alongfortheride) on Wednesday, August 25, 2004 - 10:51 pm: Edit

I perhaps see it as a mixture of the above. My son sat for 6 AP's this spring. He wasn't trying to accelerate himself through school. He just wanted the daily challenge of the AP classes vs. regulars - at his school. He will still take 4 years to graduate college. He hopes to use his credits accumulated to allow him to double major. And some of his credits will be used for placement purposes. Academically, he may have been ready for college. In every other way, no. He needed another year to grow up.

Virtually every one of the problems that Marite brought up are present at my son's school as well. Perhaps the biggest is that non-AP classes are filled with discipline problems and kids that don't come to class prepared. Faced with that scenario, AP was survival to him.

By Marite (Marite) on Wednesday, August 25, 2004 - 11:10 pm: Edit

Alongfortheride:

I am concerned that so many posters on CC seem to be taking APs in order to pad their transcripts. But despite my reservations about AP courses, they are the best that the school has to offer and have the least discipline problems. We, too, look upon them as survival.

There are some programs such as the Transition program at U Washington that allow students to skip high school. But they provide a lot of support and they expect students to live at home during the transition year. I don't think my S would have been able to be in college on his own, even if that college was just a a few miles from home. He, too, will be spending four years in college.

By Caseyatthebat (Caseyatthebat) on Wednesday, August 25, 2004 - 11:39 pm: Edit

My S, a recruited baseball player (which some snicker at on this site), took 13 AP courses while in high school. He sat for all but 2 AP exams, and scored (3) 4s and (8) 5s, on those exams. His college of choice may or may not recognize the particular AP score, and (1) we could care less; and (2)we had no idea where he would end up when he began the AP curricula, but the alternative to the AP course route was a very dumbed-down dead-end route; there was no middle ground. Furthermore, the colleges/community colleges where we live (Little Rock) cannot hold a candle in terms of academic rigor to the rigorousness of the AP curriculum at my son's independent prep school. Each time I lobbied him to forgo the extra AP, he refused to be dissuaded, and he ended up winning academic medals for excellence in many of those courses. Today he sits in his room at home reviewing chemistry for placement tests at his college in a couple of weeks, working out with both his trainer,and his hitting instructor and practicing to run the mile in under 6 minutes, which is proving to be the greater challenge.

By Emeraldkity4 (Emeraldkity4) on Wednesday, August 25, 2004 - 11:42 pm: Edit

I see kids taking so many AP classes that they are killing themselves. In Bellevue which is one of the top school districts according to Newsweek which soley grades on #s of students in APs, students are encouraged to take many APs but not allowed to drop them.
Why don't they just get their GED at 16 and go to college? many schools don't even need a diploma, you just need the prereqs.
I do think having some is good, and unfortunately school is very tiered and you may have to take an AP to get any rigor at all.
But why is it either take 5 APs junior and senior year or take classes with the kids who aren't prepared and the entire class is discipline ( or not) why can't there be a middle?

( The EEP program at UW does have lots of support, a friend entered when she was 14, the oldest you can be. Can I say it? What. A. Geek. However very bright & loved it. )

My oldest on the other hand attended a high school didn't have APs. Didn't have a problem getting into college, and if she was anywhere but the Parris Island of LACs she would be fine. However she does say that an AP class in high school would have helped as she would have had experience of dealing with the sheer amount of material in a college class.
Her sister is taking two honors classes this year ( LA is either honors or remedial, what is up with that?) I am not going to encourage her to take AP until junior or senior year, then only one at time. ( If she is still there, I don't see how they can over enroll 230 kids?- the district said they were going to get less kids than last year cause they have to move into different building( grrrr)

By Aparent4 (Aparent4) on Thursday, August 26, 2004 - 09:04 am: Edit

I have a mixed response to this topic.

First of all, I don't see AP courses as college level, at least not insofar as required to prep for the AP exam. In my book the whole approach to learning is strictly high school; it is far more about the accumulation of information than about the sophisticated interpretation of it in light of current theories.

Second, if these courses are incredibly tough, that is the individual high school's doing. My d, who took some 11 AP courses, earned nearly all 5's, and will be a National AP Scholar, did not have anything like the killer study schedule some are describing here. However, I was glad she was in AP's because otherwise her high school followed the current fad that says homogeneous grouping of any kind is elitist. Her school offers no honors courses. The AP courses gave her a chance to be in class with other bright kids. And practically speaking, coming out of a non-stellar high school, she also had a transcript with courses that were instantly recognizable to the adcoms. I do know other districts in our area where AP courses are unbelievably challenging, but this is not universally true.

Until U.S. schools get more challenging, to me AP is one beacon of hope for the student who wants to learn something -- though not truly on the college level.

By Emptynester (Emptynester) on Thursday, August 26, 2004 - 09:20 am: Edit

"First of all, I don't see AP courses as college level, at least not insofar as required to prep for the AP exam. In my book the whole approach to learning is strictly high school; it is far more about the accumulation of information than about the sophisticated interpretation of it in light of current theories."

Agree!!! We discovered part way into the freshman year that usually the AP courses were the only courses worthwhile (for all the reasons previously given) but that didn't always mean they were great courses. Since my sons were looking at schools where they would only be given credit for 2 AP classes I didn't encourage them to take exams for every AP course they took, esp if they were taking an SATII in the same area or if it was clear to me the teacher hadn't adequately covered the material and a 5 was unlikely without more self-study than they had time for. I really didn't like the idea of paying for the exams and further enriching college board at the end of senior year when they were already accepted to college and had more AP credits than they could use. It wasn't an issue for placement since they had more advanced coursework already on their records. Now the exams seem to me very sensible if you are looking at schools that give credit for them and allow you to free up your schedule.

By Marite (Marite) on Thursday, August 26, 2004 - 09:39 am: Edit

Emptynester:
>>I really didn't like the idea of paying for the exams and further enriching college board at the end of senior year when they were already accepted to college and had more AP credits than they could use. It wasn't an issue for placement since they had more advanced coursework already on their records. Now the exams seem to me very sensible if you are looking at schools that give credit for them and allow you to free up your schedule.>>

From the student's point of view, your perspective makes absolute sense. But exams are more than about credit and placement. They also serve to validate the quality of the course.

Our S#1 was also accepted into a school that only allowed students to make use of 2 APs to place out of introductory courses. He already had those under his belt when he applied to colleges. But in May of his senior year, he decided to take the exam in the AP courses he'd taken. He'd done well in all his classes. He did well on 2 exams but he totally bombed another exam. He told me he had not blown off the exam. The class had obviously not prepared him for it adequately. He had consistently received grades in the 90s in that class. Obviously, his grades had been grossly inflated. Neither he nor I had had an inkling that the class was inadequate because he was pulling As. What burned me up was that I could easily have tutored him to make up for the course's deficiencies had I known it was that bad.

I wonder how many students who pile up AP classes in senior year but don't take the exams truly had classes worthy of the AP designation. In my S's case, at least one was not.

By Alongfortheride (Alongfortheride) on Thursday, August 26, 2004 - 09:44 am: Edit

Marite, I understood where you were coming from. I also read the proliferation of posts from students that seem to make every choice for classes and EC's based on their college app. I find myself wondering if they do anything because they enjoy it.

I too, share concerns with other posters that the AP's should not replace college level courses completely. Hence my son staying in for four years. It has freed up his schedule tremendously. But, he has proceeded with caution in chosing his college classes. He had AP teachers that didn't prepare him at the college level and some that did - regardless what he scored on the test - and he realizes that. If it turns out that he was very prepared and his first classes are reviews, great! He'll have the opportunity for some good grades and he'll also have the knowledge that he does have a good foundation to move on in his college studies.

I do wish there were intermediate classes in high school. Our school used to have regulars, honors and AP, but because of budget concerns has dropped the honors. It's such a shame, because I think that a large percentage of kids in the schools would benefit.

By Newnudad (Newnudad) on Thursday, August 26, 2004 - 09:49 am: Edit

Casey at the Bat: I recommend Frank Deford's Casey At The Bat... It's a fun book, tells what happens after the last swing, and gives graphic evidence for the importance of a good catcher!

My son is now 10 and in 5th grade,(turns 11 in Oct) in gifted classes, one question away from Magnate school and led his summer baseball team in OBP, hits to walk ratio, SB, Runs scored, Avg, but not extra base hits...only 2nd best pitcher on team, but best fielder.

Question - Where was your son at 10-11, what was he doing on the field and in the classroom???
Did you do anything special to help get him recruited?

And in keeping with the thread theme... Our HS System has good AP courses and KJ's big sister starts at Northwestern in a couple of weeks and took 5 AP's Sr Year... 4's and 5's, but no softball scholarship!

By Emptynester (Emptynester) on Thursday, August 26, 2004 - 09:50 am: Edit

Marite: I was able to look at the records for all the AP exams for several years and knew which courses weren't cutting it, even before listening to a few teachers at parents' night and hearing them state flat out that it was impossible to cover all the material in the time they had. The info I had was available to all the parents who cared to request it. It only seemed a concern to a few who had figured out their students better take the *best* AP courses (those where it was possible to get a 5) soph or junior yr for the college app.

By Lefthandofdog (Lefthandofdog) on Thursday, August 26, 2004 - 09:55 am: Edit

In most cases, AP courses are taught by people with at most a master's degree v. the Ph.D. that you'd find at most colleges (community colleges, LACs and universities). Our state college system will accept 3s and higher for credit; competitive LACs will usually accept 4s or 5s only and sometimes not count towards a major. It's easy to be cynical and say the LACs don't want to lose out on the tuition dollars by admitting freshman with a semester or more of credit, but I don't think course work earned in a high school setting can compare with that earned in almost any college. Anyone who believes (I do) that peers have an impact on the quality of a class would think actual college courses are better. On the other hand, AP served the same purposes in our high school that previous posters mentioned - it's a lifeline for many kids. It is more rigorous with fewer discipline problems, and these are major concerns in many public schools. It also serves the student who faces paying his own way through college - (s)he can pay the $80 or so per exam (or get fees waived) and graduate high school facing three years of college (a 25% reduction right there). AP exams are also one of the few ways to gauge what an A or B in a particular school means, if an adcom has access to the AP scores. One of the problems is if your school doesn't get out until late June and a student is only taking AP courses, they sit in class for a month without much purpose. I see it as the best solution (so far) to the multiple problems and demands of public high schools.

By Marite (Marite) on Thursday, August 26, 2004 - 09:57 am: Edit

>I do wish there were intermediate classes in high school. Our school used to have regulars, honors and AP, but because of budget concerns has dropped the honors. It's such a shame, because I think that a large percentage of kids in the schools would benefit.>

We've had the same situation. Ours dropped honors in 2000 not because of budgetary concerns but for ideological reasons, the new principal being against elitism and tracking. So there has been nothing in between regular classes and AP classes. No thought was given to students who would be going straight from regular chemistry class to AP class, or to students who wanted to do a more challenging class without necessarily doing AP-level work, or the students who wanted to take the SATII but not take AP classes in a subject. The main victims of the anti-tracking mentality have been the vast majority of average and above aeverage students. The low performing ones have remedial classes; the high performing ones have APs. The average, hard-working kids have had to make do with classes pitched at 6th grade reading level. After much protest, Honors will be reintroduced this year, but not as separate classes. It will be yet another interesting experiment. My S, as a junior, will be in AP classes.

By Marite (Marite) on Thursday, August 26, 2004 - 10:03 am: Edit

Lefthandofdog:

Last Spring, my S was in senior English class (for reason I mentioned in another post). The class had a bad case of senioritis which made my S's experience in it less than ideal. Finals for seniors were held right after the APs, so that particular class ended before the end of May, with another whole month to go for non-seniors. Since my S was not graduating, he asked the teacher if he could do another project. No way. The teacher was done. My S had unexpected 4 hours of free time a week for the next month.

By Aparent4 (Aparent4) on Thursday, August 26, 2004 - 10:14 am: Edit

Marite, if I didn't know you were up there on the Charles, I'd think our kids went to the same high school. ;-) Alas, fads being what they are, I fear our kids are not alone in the particular ideology they face.

By Justanothermom (Justanothermom) on Thursday, August 26, 2004 - 10:24 am: Edit

My D attends a school that offers honor classes. However, our experience has been somewhat similar to that of others who can only choose between regular and AP classes. The AP classes have the most motivated students and the best teachers while the regular and honors classes are a mixed bag at best.

The AP classes that D has taken have been challenging and have prepared her well for the AP tests. However, I wouldn't view them as rigorous college classes. They have taught her what I would have expected a solid high school curriculum to teach.

It took me a while to figure it out, but it seems that at our school "regular" has become "remedial," "honors" has become "regular," and AP's offer the only viable option to students who want to learn. Is this also happening elsewhere?

By Aparent4 (Aparent4) on Thursday, August 26, 2004 - 10:25 am: Edit

Yes!

What I wonder is, why?

By Xiggi (Xiggi) on Thursday, August 26, 2004 - 10:26 am: Edit

I am back -after a one week unfortunate and forced hiatus!

I have, however, not lost my usual habit to find faults in the way reporters present their articles. For instance, in addition of knowing that the College Board IS a non-profit organization, the reporter may have shown another side of the coin by profiling the school a bit better. Taking a look at the Miami Senior HS profile reveals the following numbers:
High School graduation rate: 53.2%
Teachers with master's degree: 33.5%
Teacher experience average: 12.2
ACT test takers: 90
ACT % of school: 15.6%
Number of students taking SAT: 189
Percentage of grade 12 enrollment taking the SAT: 32.8%
SAT average for all students taking the test: 884
ACT average for all students taking the test: 17.1

I have seen several reports of schools that offer more than twenty AP classes and do not seem to crack 900 on their SAT average. While I understand that bright students ought to have an avenue for higher learning, I believe that it creates a great divide among students and casts some serious doubts about the integrity of the program offered.

Reading the example given by Caseyatthebat illustrates the danger to formulate generalized opinions about the relative value of AP classes. I do, however, believe that the AP -and other type of "college level" advanced classes- is indicative of a system that is spinning out of control. The way we are going, I would not be surprised if AP tests would become a norm in application for a number of private ... high schools.

I cringe at all this talk about graduating with dual and double majors, not to mention to graduating in 2.5 to 3 years. There are truly outstanding students who are capable of such exploits, but they should represent a very small number and not become a standard.

I am a strong advocate of limiting the number of advanced credits to an absolute minimum AND only granting full credit upon passing an ADDITIONAL test similar to the final college exam. This could bring some level of sanity to this vicious race. Otherwise, colleges could soon start offering a "degree du jour".

By Jamimom (Jamimom) on Thursday, August 26, 2004 - 10:51 am: Edit

As usual, Xiggi nails the problem to the wall so we can view it. I have no issues with AP courses and I do not believe in gatekeeping kids out of them. But schools that are offering them just to look good on paper without taking any responsibility in teaching the material needed should be penalized and chastened for the charade. A school with a 900 SAT average for its kids has more important issues on the plate than AP courses. What these schools have discovered is a loophole in the college app process and are exploiting it to the detriment of the kids.

As it stands right now, curriculum strength packs a huge wallop in the assessment of schools and students. The reason I put my kids into a private school is because the public ones in my area had gatekeeping issues which kept kids out of the top courses. My kids were well qualifed for top schools IF they got a top curriculum designation, the way college appraisals go. Without it, they could not as they had other deficiencies in their profile. These lower rated schools are going for the brownie points much the same way I did with my kids but they are not following up and giving the kids the materials needed to pass the tests. When you have URMs with high grades taking AP courses, it can heavily outweigh the low SATs. The problem is that the AP courses are not being taught to standard and the highschools pulling this stunt are getting away with it. I have seen this happen several times and the victims are kids who think they are prepared for college and are not. They invariably flunk out.

The AP curriculum is valuable in allowing colleges assess the difficulty of courses the kids are taking particularly at schools that are not known to the colleges. Along with the SAT2, scores can give a better perspective on that straight A average when the kid cannot get a decent score on any of the test. Though the SAT1s are more aptitude oriented and can be a reflection of test practice or background, the SAT2s and AP tests are achievement oriented--if you get a good grasp of the material on the test, you can do well. My girls were low SAT 1 scorers but their excellent transcripts were bolstered by near perfect SAT2s. They got into top schools including an ivy with this profile. Though their highschool was "good", it was not among the known schools that are considered to have top curriculums. It was important that they had that independent verification of their ability to learn well.

Must run--good to see you back, Xiggi. When do you head off to school? Best wishes for the start of your college years, if I don't read you before you go.

By Marite (Marite) on Thursday, August 26, 2004 - 11:02 am: Edit

Xiggi:

Welcome back! And kudoes for your investigative skills.

>>I am a strong advocate of limiting the number of advanced credits to an absolute minimum AND only granting full credit upon passing an ADDITIONAL test similar to the final college exam. This could bring some level of sanity to this vicious race. Otherwise, colleges could soon start offering a "degree du jour". >>

I agree, as do many posters here, that shortening the college experience is not a good idea. From what I see on CC,however, a lot of students take APs to impress adcoms rather than to gain sophomore standing. I doubt that limiting the number of college credits will stop the practice.

AP classes do offer a superior high school experience to motivated students even though they are by no means the equivalent of the college courses they are claimed to substitute for.

While I also agree that APs create a divide among students, sometimes this divide is necessary. I once attended a teachers'meeting that was supposed to discuss curriculum but turned into a discussion of "inequities" among the teachers. Those who were not teaching AP classes were incredibly envious of those who did. To hear them talk, AP classes were a breeze because there were no discipline problems or lack of student motivation.

By Idler (Idler) on Thursday, August 26, 2004 - 11:03 am: Edit

I used to teach in an English dept at a well-known LAC, where English 101 was taken very seriously, and no one got out of it, AP or not. We considered it our mission to explode the students' high school way of reading and writing, and reform with the fundamentals. It was a terrific course and had a long tradition. I feel that this is what many great teachers do, in many disciplines, though there are exceptions such as language programs. This is a reason why APs are unpopular among many college teachers: as others have said, high school courses aren't a good substitute for college courses.

There is certainly value in a program that provides an array of challenging courses, especially in schools where it might not be available otherwise. Any student aware of admission requirements at top colleges, to take the most demanding courses, is bound to take a good number of APs, and most would seek out the most demanding anyway, just as they did when they had the more humble (apparently) designation of "Honors."

I must say I prefer the "honors" approach. ETS has entirely too much power in our educational system: with the AP system they effectively prescribe a national curriculum. I have seen too many of these courses (2 kids through the mill)stifled by being "taught to the test." The more leisurely and open approach, following a line of inquiry that has turned out to interest the class, and is sparking real thought, is forgone in the interest of getting through the material. Not always, great teachers don't succumb, but many do.

At my son's school, the Head of Upper School would very much like to get rid of them. His peers at other schools agree, but no one will unilaterally disarm, and parents feel that without a list of APs you are at a tremendous disadvantage in the College game because other schools have them. So the arms race described in the article continues.

By Marite (Marite) on Thursday, August 26, 2004 - 11:05 am: Edit

Jamimom's and Xiggi's arguments are exactly why I endorse the AP exam. Not for credit but for validation of a supposedly rigorous curriculum.

By Aparent4 (Aparent4) on Thursday, August 26, 2004 - 11:05 am: Edit

The reason many schools get away with teaching AP classes poorly is that the brighter, motivated students have learned that they need to do a lot of self-study in order to do well on the tests. Therefore the course ends up looking good, because the AP scores turn out to be high, no thanks to the teacher. I suppose that therefore AP prepared my kids for college, although not quite in the way I originally imagined!

By Idler (Idler) on Thursday, August 26, 2004 - 11:28 am: Edit

So, reading through recent posts again, what does AP accomplsh that the more open ended Honors and SATII doesn't? Many colleges administer their own placement tests anyway.

By Mini (Mini) on Thursday, August 26, 2004 - 11:30 am: Edit

My d. took 3 AP exams without any courses and did fine in all 3, two in hard sciences. Took the music theory when she was 12 (all right, she was exceptional.) Studied for about a month for each one, maybe an hour or so a day. Looking back at it, I don't know why she/we bothered - we were able to document the "rigor" of her "curriculum" in plenty of other ways.

Whom are we kidding? Leon Botstein at Bard in New York City and at Simon's Rock has demonstrated quite clearly that large numbers of bright kids are ready for a regular college curriculum at 15. Not necessarily brilliant kids, or particularly gifted ones. Bright ones.

I wonder (this is not rhetorical) to what degree APs are an attempt to hold kids back, when they really are ready for much, much more. (I too suspect the "honors" approach would be far more valuable, as classes aren't held down to the false security of an inscrutable standard.) At my d.'s LAC, they give no regular credit for APs. They can be used - though rarely -- to make up for a lack of credits caused by failure (!), and they can be used to place into a higher level course, in a few cases, though most departments require their own placement evaluation/test for that purpose.

By Dstark (Dstark) on Thursday, August 26, 2004 - 11:32 am: Edit

Idler, are you no longer teaching?
I prefer honors courses to AP courses also.

By Emptynester (Emptynester) on Thursday, August 26, 2004 - 11:44 am: Edit

"ETS has entirely too much power in our educational system: with the AP system they effectively prescribe a national curriculum."

Agree!! And with Aparent4 and Mini's observations. My s came home from first day with first AP course and asked in a very forlorn voice, "Mom, are they going to use textbooks in college"? (humanities kid used to primary sources LOL)

By Idler (Idler) on Thursday, August 26, 2004 - 11:48 am: Edit

Not for 20 years actually, Dstark, but I hope to again, once I get these kids paid off. I also worked for a few years as an AP reader, which consisted of sitting at one of 20 or 30 tables in the Rider College cafeteria, as boxes upon boxes of essays on a passage of Wuthering Heights, or some such, were wheeled in on hand trucks by uniformed ETS employees. Each essay was graded 1 to 5, based on a prescribed rubric, each was read twice, and disagreements were resolved by a third reader. After reading a few hundred you got a pretty clear view of what a 3 or a 5 was. The whole system was very well and humanely run, by people who cared, just as their other tests are. Still, it's a juggernaut.

By Marite (Marite) on Thursday, August 26, 2004 - 11:52 am: Edit

I agree with Idler that it would be much better if the AP courses were labeled honors and no pretense was made that they are the equivalent of college courses.

By Songman (Songman) on Thursday, August 26, 2004 - 12:00 pm: Edit

Here comes a grenade.......AP/Honor courses just looking at it from a philosophical point of view, fly in the face of the "No child left behind" mentality that exists in society today. No? If one is truly liberal this type of slotting should be outlawed no? Especially in a public school!

By Emptynester (Emptynester) on Thursday, August 26, 2004 - 12:08 pm: Edit

Songman: I agree. Tracking IMHO isn't fair even though any sensible parent again, IMHO, is going to insist their bright student not be disadvantaged by classes taught at what would sometimes need to be a very basic level.I see no way around this problem in a graded system. Do you? Robyrm described her child's elementary school which does seem to be able to avoid these problems at least at that level if I understood her correctly.

By Emptynester (Emptynester) on Thursday, August 26, 2004 - 12:10 pm: Edit

One of the worst problems with tracking imho is that children are assigned their *places* so early on (kindergarten reading groups - ugh!!)and it may become impossible to change the label.

By Txtaximom (Txtaximom) on Thursday, August 26, 2004 - 12:13 pm: Edit

Our high school is one of the those schools where "hundreds of kids" take APs and very few take the exams. This despite only charging half price for the exams, and giving vouchers to those who really can't afford even the half price.

They list on our school profile 21 AP courses. They also list an average SAT of 964. What they do not list on the profile is how many go on to take the exam, and AP Statistics has never made, and AP Environmental Science rarely makes, but they are listed. There are also the usual AP Lite suspects...AP Human Geography, European History, etc...

We have an excellent Calculus teacher who gets even the non-math oriented kids (like mine) over the AP exam bar. She has an 86% pass rate, with mostly 4s and 5s. Then we have our History department with a 10% pass rate. Several hundred students(over 300 I saw at one point) take AP US History, 65 or so take the exam. There was one 5 last year, a couple of 4s, a three....less than 10 altogether. And all the rest were 1s and 2s. There are at least two sections of AP Psych offered each year. Last year four took the exam and all four made 1s.

We had three AP scholars last year. Only three students took and passed three AP exams their junior year, where most are taking four to five AP classes.

Part of this I attribute to the block system. The kids lose one point when they take the class in the fall, and take the exam in May--even with review sessions. This is a fairly consistent result when you look at the fall semester scores vs spring semester scores for each class.

Part of this I attribute to the game playing to be in the top 10% to auto admit into our state university system. A lot of these kids would not have the board scores to apply otherwise.

Part of this I attribute to the teacher's notion that a room full of AP students will be better behaved and more serious about their studies. We have horrible discipline issues at our school and this theoretically would be a filter. I do find there are just as many disruptive kids among the ranks of the bright, gifted, etc...

This year, fewer kids are taking the AP classes because they cannot pass the exams for an advanced measure. Instead, they are going over to the community college to take the same class, because all they have to do is pass it to get the advanced measure. (You need 4 for the distinguished graduation plan.) Plus, the college class is not calculated into your GPA.

The AP Government teacher said she had two 2s and a 1...all students who were taking a bunch of social science APs concurrently as juniors so they could boost the GPA for the fall rank. She thinks maybe they could not be thorough enough on their preparation with so many heavy reading courses. This goes back the game playing.

My son has been forced to put a lot of APs on his schedule because if he doesn't, it will show up on the secondary report sent by the counselor that he has not taken the most rigorous curriculum offered, nor is he taking the most rigorous curriculum compared to the top students. Furthermore, his GPA and class rank would plummet, causing a discrepency between the test scores and the grades.

I guess we are AP abuse at its best.

By Blossom (Blossom) on Thursday, August 26, 2004 - 12:36 pm: Edit

txmom-- you surely didn't mean that AP Euro was AP lite??? It is a very rigorous exam.

Once again, this debate proves that although everyone can argue about terminology and metrics, the real issue is the pathetic state of public education in the US.

Lots of blame to go around... teachers unions, taxpayer indifference, parental narcisissm, a culture which values athletic achievement over intellectual attainment, PC notions of a level playing field where nobody feels bad over a "C".....

How sad.

By Marite (Marite) on Thursday, August 26, 2004 - 12:42 pm: Edit

Songman:

Hmm... I've seen both tracking and untracking, and each has its problems.

There is a difference between allowing students to fail, i.e, leaving them behind, and allowing students to excel. Not every high school student should be pushed into AP-Calculus, but shouldn't those who can handle the work be allowed into AP-Calculus?

Tracking has its problems, but we've experienced first-hand the damage untracked heterogeneous classes can do. Our hs introduced heterogeneous classes 4 years ago and has been trying to fix them ever since. Believe me, it's not kids with highly involved, highly educated, savvy parents, who are damaged. It's the low achieving students who get discouraged by being pitted against better prepared students; it's the average kids who could do better if only they were given a little bit more of a push and more support. One parent told me that a ninth-grader whose reading level was around 6th grade said bitterly to him:"How can I ever hope to get a B in this class when it's full of students like your kid?" The implication was that he would not even try. Not what the heterogeneous class was intended to achieve. Meanwhile, the kid whose father was being addressed felt that the class did not address her own needs for a more challenging curriculum that would prepare her well for college. No one has been happy with the untracked classes.

By Mini (Mini) on Thursday, August 26, 2004 - 12:52 pm: Edit

Notice how quickly a discussion of "education" degenerates into "how well they do" as opposed to "what they learn".

Glad we homeschool.

By Rhonda63 (Rhonda63) on Thursday, August 26, 2004 - 12:54 pm: Edit

Marite -- I'm with you on the tracking issue. I do think tracking is more problematic at very young ages, but at the HS level I think it is generally a good idea.

By Marite (Marite) on Thursday, August 26, 2004 - 01:11 pm: Edit

Emptynester:

About elementary reading groups: the consequences of not tracking by ability is that students get tracked by age. When my S was in a combined 3/4 class, he had a math teacher who did not believe in tracking so he was not allowed to join the 4th graders for math, even though he was way ahead of the class (the result was that he became quite rebellious). The class had a literacy volunteer who led a group of advanced 4th graders. My S liked the volunteer and joined the group (the lead teacher apparently not noticing this transgression). The group was reading a Redwall story. That was the first long story that my S ever read. He never looked back. Had he been forced to stay with 3rd graders, he would have been reading short chapter books with plenty of illustrations and easy vocabulary. Pretty pointless way of spending his time in school.

By Justanothermom (Justanothermom) on Thursday, August 26, 2004 - 01:12 pm: Edit

I think Xiggi is correct that our present system is spinning out of control. However, I don’t believe that the high schools are the only ones at fault.

At a recent campus visit, the adcom officer reiterated that AP classes were very valuable in determining “college caliber” students. However, when asked about the importance of AP test scores, he made light of them by indicating that they were required for placement purposes only after admission. Should we be that surprised then at the response of many high schools and students?

However, this AP madness creates some welcomed side benefits. D’s school “strongly encourages” motivated students to take AP classes and their equivalent AP tests. In addition, AP test passing rates for every class are published each year. This combination appears to be a great motivator for the administration, teachers, and students alike. They are not college courses, but learning actually occurs in many of those AP classes! While learning ability and needs might differ among students, it seems a real shame that those “higher” AP standards are not equally emphasized in regular and honor classes. With that scenario, I’m just relieved that there are AP classes at our school that allow my D to learn.

By Kjofkw (Kjofkw) on Thursday, August 26, 2004 - 01:44 pm: Edit

Just some AP opinions:

I totally agree that AP classes do not provide "depth". I don't expect them to do so. Neither did my Psychology 101 class in college long long ago. It was a broad introduction to the field. This is exactly what I equate high school AP classes to be -- introductions to Euro history, Calculus, Government, etc! It allows students to taste different classes at higher levels than is typically found in most high schools. I don't expect them to master European history yet. Perhaps some students are ready for even higher levels in their classes. A broad introduction is still the usual way to start.

AP classes gave my son the chance to stretch beyond the typical hs curriculum -- at home -- in a familiar environment. Many teachers felt he was ready for college level work early. But, I knew he had a lot of maturing to do before being sent away (I still question!). He did take one course at our local CC in summer. He was the only non-traditional student attending (most were business executives coming back for continuing ed.). While a course or two with that mix is not necessarily a bad thing, I don't think he was yet ready to be immersed into that environment on a full-time basis.

He didn't take 6 AP classes senior year to pad a resume. He took them to challenge himself. He knew the advantage of being with a student body that was ready for a different level of work.

Just an aside: I found it humorous that some teachers gave the "excuse" that their subject's AP test was much harder than their fellow teachers' subject, as evidenced by the low scores achieved from previous years (from their own class).

By Songman (Songman) on Thursday, August 26, 2004 - 01:48 pm: Edit

Maybe this is off the point of this thread? BUT......Marite you said: "Had he been forced to stay with 3rd graders, he would have been reading short chapter books with plenty of illustrations and easy vocabulary. Pretty pointless way of spending his time in school" ...this is the crux of the argument/discussion to me. Again, philosphically speaking, is it the responsibility of the school administration to teach at varied levels or to teach a standardized curriculum? A baseline set of subjects ,etc. Funny I find that conservatives view the academic world as if it is a meritocracy or a race to compete in,while liberals have a view that public school should be all inclusionary or as BLOSSOM said "PC notions of a level playing field where nobody feels bad..." Yet the very same liberal parents behind the scenes go into the school and put a full court press on the administartion to get their kids into the honors and most difficult courses. At least this kind of nonsense goes on in my town.

By Caseyatthebat (Caseyatthebat) on Thursday, August 26, 2004 - 01:55 pm: Edit

Newnu: At 10 my S had just started playing baseball, and we had no idea about anything. By 8th grade the picture clarified somewhat. If you don't know of it yet, go to hsbaseball.com. This site will have more (way more) than you need to know at this point, but there is also a topic on the pre-high school player. You can learn a lot from the site about conditioning and just engage in lively baseball discussion, although even the hsbaseball websters talk politics from time to time!

By Txtaximom (Txtaximom) on Thursday, August 26, 2004 - 02:16 pm: Edit

Blossom...the rigor of the AP exams does not match the "rigor" of the classes taught at our high school. I was trying to point out what has happened in our particular high school. I don't doubt that any class, AP or not, can be quite rigorous given the right instructor, materials, motivated student and so forth. I notice in many of the college catalogs that there are certain AP classes that only receive a generic credit, or no credit at all. There are other AP classes that with a 5, or sometimes a 4 or a 3 depending on the instution, receive credit and or higher placement. A lot of the social science APs seem to fall into the generic or no credit catagory. At our particular school, AP Euro is not as rigorous as the AP second year sciences (Physics, Chem, Bio) or the English and Calculus. Our AP level of French, Spanish, German and Latin only yield one or two kids every few years that can pass. Generally it will be a native Spanish speaker taking the Spanish Language exam. I guess I should have been more specific.

Mini....I see the AP test as one nationally set standard to measure what my child has learned in a particular class compared to other students in that same class elsewhere since there is such a wide variety in the caliber of teaching, available materials, etc...It is not the only measure of what they learn, but it can indicate to a prospective college what kind of grade inflation may exist at our school. Fortunately the admission's process has various elements upon which to base their final admit decision. I wouldn't say that an AP score would be the only measure of what is learned in an AP class. Our teachers are not held accountable for the AP scores.

Kjo--we have the same full court press in our town. The pressure is there to give high grades to keep those kids in the top 10% for auto admit purposes. If the AP exam scores were an indication, then we should have students making Cs an Ds in AP classes to correlate with the 3s and 2s, when for the the most part a B is the lowest grade you will see in an AP class. The average grade in the AP Psych is a 100. The average AP exam score is a 1. Going back to Mini's point--yes there was learning in the class, but no, it would not at a college level as indicated by the exam grades.

By Massdad (Massdad) on Thursday, August 26, 2004 - 02:17 pm: Edit

I'm a bit late to this party, but see a few conflicting issues.

- There are good and bad reasons to pursue AP courses. Unfortunately, a nationally published author has pushed the theory that inclusiveness in AP classes benefits a wide range of students. He's also published rankings of HS based on the average number of AP courses taken by students, a curious statistic, to say the least.

- Performance on AP courses can be a valuable data point for college adcoms. After all, it is the only nationally standardized, nationally normed class program around. It offers a great way to compare a HS in MA with one in CA, for example. Of course, for most accurate interpretation, the adcom should see how the school as a whole did on AP exams, as well as the kid applying. So better schools will include this information in the profile. If your school does not, I would wonder if the parents are being scammed (good news is shouted, bad news hidden...)

- I have doubts that anyone is served well by classes that claim to be AP, but have few kids take the exam or score well on it. Who is the school kidding, especially when kids get A's in the course and can't even get a 4 on the AP exam? My D's school was the opposite. A lot of kids did better on the AP exams than the course grades.

- Sciences (the real ones - chem, bio, physics) are a true problem area for AP classes, primarily due to the poor quality of the lab experience. I see some colleges pushing back on just this point - granting partial credit but requiring kids to enroll in labs.

I think the saddest part of AP courses is that they too often are a race to absorb factoids for the AP exams, and not a learning experience. They remind me of the worst of the survey courses I managed to avoid in college - as Marite said, wide and shallow. I wonder how many kids come out of USH or WH, for instance, with any appreciation of why history is worth studying? I doubt it.

By Marite (Marite) on Thursday, August 26, 2004 - 02:18 pm: Edit

Songman:

In an ideal world, all kids would be homeschooled by knowledgeable and resourceful parents like Mini. But this is not an ideal world, and most kids are educated in schools, whether public or private.

Practically speaking, a school needs to have a standardized curriculum that meets the needs of the majority of kids. It sets expectations for students and lets teachers know what the students should know when they come into their grade and what they should know when they leave their grade to go into the next one. Outliers are not called outliers for nothing. My S was an outlier. I don't expect a whole curriculum to be devised for the sake of a couple of outliers (though I do expect support to be provided for those students who struggle with the standardized curriculum). What I was arguing about is that lack of ability tracking does not mean that there is no tracking. Tracking by age is just as tyrannical as tracking by some other means. Using the Japanese saying that it's the nail sticking out that gets hammered down, I would say that there are teachers who are quite willing to hammer down some students. In my S's case, it was sheer ideology rather than practicality that made the 3rd grade teacher deny him the possibility of joining 4th graders in math.
Some schools recognize that kids--even in elementary schools--function at different levels. One 4th grader I know was capable of doing Honors Algebra. His district arranged for a high school teacher to come to his elementary school to teach him, he being too young to go to the high school and the district recognizing that he might be intimidated in a roomful of 9th graders. The district used that strategy to address the needs of this single kid while not in any way shortchanging the needs of the other 4th graders (it's considered one of the best in the country). Other kids I know moved from a Montessori school into a public school. Their levels in different subjects were all ahead of their putative grades. The public school obliged by putting them in different grades for different subjects. It made for a very complicated schedule and it was not the ideal solution, but it worked somehow. When my S got to 7/8 grade, similar accommodation were made by a different team of teachers.

Public schools ARE inclusionary by law. They do not have the choice of expelling unruly students, of denying an education to disabled students, of skimming the top (unless they are exam schools) and leaving everyone else behind. As a result, they have to deal with a much wider range of students than do private schools. It is ironic that some choose to cope with this wide range by denying it exists.

By Annak721 (Annak721) on Thursday, August 26, 2004 - 02:26 pm: Edit

Just adding my two cents for what it's worth... I'm a rising senior in a small (400 students grades 9-12) public high school. While some students do not take AP classes at my school it is definitely not the trend. I took one my soph. year(US History-4), two my junior year(Chem-5, Bio-4), and i will be taking three this coming year(Lang, Calc AB, Physics C) I will have taken all the APs that my school offers in my discipline. Because I have exhausted all my possible classes I will also be taking a Penn State college level Anatomy and Physiology class during two periods of my day. I am not the first student to do this at my school and I will not be the last. I also know students at my school that have taken classes over the summer or during the schoolyear (at night) at a local college. We, as students fighting for a spot at the university of our choice, feel that we must take every high-level class possible in order to even be considered.
I personally don't find any of these AP classes all that challenging though compared to our honors/academic classes they would be considered challenging. Although students in these classes do often become stressed I know for a fact that many just treat it as another class, not as this difficult Advanced Placement class.

By Emptynester (Emptynester) on Thursday, August 26, 2004 - 02:49 pm: Edit

Marite, I disagree with tracking by age also. For just the sort of reasons you describe and especially in the early grades where there is a very wide variance in when children are ready to read or do math. It doesn't mean they lack the ability and that they may not excel at a later date. It makes no sense to me to label them but just to provide an appropriate level which will inevitably mean mixed age and imho should also mean mixed ability groups. For example: What if your son had been allowed to read the Redwall book to the kindergarten class? Aside: Is Redwall actually considered too advanced for the average 3rd grader?

"how well they do" as opposed to "what they learn"
Mini, yes! why I just hate grades which seem to me to have nothing to do with actual learning LOL

By Emeraldkity4 (Emeraldkity4) on Thursday, August 26, 2004 - 03:13 pm: Edit

I think Redwall would probably be too advanced for many 3rd graders, at least the way they teach them reading. Hwever let me illustrate your point.
My younger daughter didn't know lettersounds by beginning of 3rd grade but by end of third grade she was reading Harry Potter. I predict that by end of high school unless she gets side tracked she will be virtually indistinguishable from her sister who read all the Little house on the Prarie books in 1st grade, and all the Redwall books ( the ones there were) in 2nd & 3 rd grade.
I see so many parents in early elementary getting really excited cause their kids are reading early and get invested in having them be indentified as "gifted". there are "gifted" kids sure, and many kids aren't challenged enough in school although if they don'thave too much busy work crap to get through, they often will have all sorts of elaborate projects at home. BUt lots more is critical to developing people, physical activity is so important, developing social skills and nurturing creativity and the willingness to take risks. Learning is not just absorbing information, it is about taking that information and doing something new with it, with the emphasis on testing in all grades, we are not giving our children enough freedom to explore.

By Emptynester (Emptynester) on Thursday, August 26, 2004 - 03:27 pm: Edit

Emeraldkity: both mine learned to read quickly once they decided it was worth their while; what was the point? -- parents were always available and already knew all the words LOL Once they were convinced it was a useful life skill, they went from the early readers (which they detested) to goosebumps to *real* books in a very short period of time. I hadn't considered till now what happens with reading in first thru third grade. I guess there are those Dick and Jane books the whole time? *gifted* is just one more of those labels that I personally don't care for.

By Marite (Marite) on Thursday, August 26, 2004 - 03:36 pm: Edit

Emptynester:

I suppose that Redwall would be considered too hard for most 3rd graders, though probably because of the length. While my S was reading Redwal with the 4th graders, the other 3rd graders were reading the equivalents of Encyclopedia Brown.

I agree that labeling kids is not the right way to go. It is as limiting to label a kid a 3rd grader when that kid is capable of doing a whole lot more than what is considered "normal" for a 3rd grader than it is to label a kid "gifted" because said kid happens to read a bit earlier than some other kids. The fact is that my S's classes were supposed to be following a child-centered approach, with lots of groupings that changed regularly, so it should have been possible to accommodate quite different levels of abilities. This was true of reading but not of math. While my S read Redwall in class, he was also reading math books at home without regard to length or difficulty. When he came across a concept he did not understand, he just asked one of us.

By Marite (Marite) on Thursday, August 26, 2004 - 03:41 pm: Edit

Emptynester:

Did you homeschool? I consider my S semi-homeschooled because so much of his learning has happened outside regular classes, either at home or through special afterschool programs. We did not think of our S as gifted, either. If he wanted to learn something, we made it possible for him to do so.

By Songman (Songman) on Thursday, August 26, 2004 - 03:53 pm: Edit

mARITE- "'As a result, they have to deal with a much wider range of students than do private schools. It is ironic that some choose to cope with this wide range by denying it exists."

? Sorry I missed the point here..please elaborate.

By Newnudad (Newnudad) on Thursday, August 26, 2004 - 03:53 pm: Edit

Casey: Thanks I appreciate the response and will check it out.

Marite - Also appreciate your "special 4th grader" insight too.. similar to what our school is doing for my 5th grader with Math, only he's only 1-2 grades ahead, not HS level!

Which brings us full circle to the original thread about AP Courses... IMO we have to have AP courses for kids that would be bored by regular courses...

I feel reinforced as to why I like CC after reading all the many and varied responses.

Thank U All!

By Emptynester (Emptynester) on Thursday, August 26, 2004 - 04:05 pm: Edit

Marite: homeschooled until high school; like you semi-homeschooled highschool LOL much easier to just homeschool! I am apparently clueless as to how little really happens in elem school (tho I didn't really think my opinion could be much lower)

By Aparent4 (Aparent4) on Thursday, August 26, 2004 - 04:14 pm: Edit

I loved my kids' elementary school and am grateful that history happened to place them in a rare period of hands-on learning and creativity, before the current testing craze took over. Their days were full of nurturing Monarch butterflies, sharing international food with their classmates from all different cultures, putting on Shakespeare plays (language simplified) and having them videotaped, doing creative problem-solving and lateral thinking problems. Oh, no, I have been avoiding that "SOB" thread and now here I am, all nostalgic...

In high school the only things they found valuable were certainly not APs but classes, programs, and ECs that involved independent research. It's been so nice hearing s's news from college; once again, I'm excited about what he's learning!

By Marite (Marite) on Thursday, August 26, 2004 - 04:15 pm: Edit

Songman:

mARITE- "'As a result, they have to deal with a much wider range of students than do private schools. It is ironic that some choose to cope with this wide range by denying it exists."


Since public schools cannot pick and choose whom they educate, they have to deal with a much wider range of abilities and motivation than do private schools. Our previous principal did not precisely deny it existed. She just acted as if it could go away through sheer good will, and as if the more advanced level of preparation and greater motivation of some would rub off on the others. As a result, we had kids who could barely read together with kids who could read at college level.

By Marite (Marite) on Thursday, August 26, 2004 - 04:17 pm: Edit

Emptynester:

We just happened to hit one ideological teacher (who was fabulous in other ways). And in later grades, my S had truly excellent teachers who worked hard to stretch him, including rearranging his schedule so he could go to the hs for AP Physics. It's the high school that had been in turmoil over the last few years.

By Marite (Marite) on Thursday, August 26, 2004 - 04:26 pm: Edit

Aparent:

I just sent you an email!

By Songman (Songman) on Thursday, August 26, 2004 - 05:13 pm: Edit

Marite said: "as if the more advanced level of preparation and greater motivation of some would rub off on the others". Yes we found the same philosophy in our school system. What was really hard to deal with was our elementary/middle school. They stifled the talent of some kids that were doing well with music,sports,reading,acting,math etc. so the average performer became the norm. Some kids buckled under peer pressure and decided not to shine in order to please the PC teachers. What a mess. A hornet's nest! Now my daughter is approaching 8th grade and all the kids are busting out with different degrees of talent and it is hard for the below average that were coddled to cope with it all. Likewise the advanced kids (some that is) do the minimum and look like shining stars. What is up with all of this? Yikes!

By Aparent4 (Aparent4) on Thursday, August 26, 2004 - 06:44 pm: Edit

Marite, I looked for your email but didn't get it yet. I think I've changed it since we last corresponded; see my profile. Either that's the problem, or the Net is persnickety today...

By Marite (Marite) on Thursday, August 26, 2004 - 07:43 pm: Edit

Aparent:

I sent you another email. Same address: the one in your profile. I hope it works this time.

By Spoonyj (Spoonyj) on Thursday, August 26, 2004 - 09:20 pm: Edit

In my experience, too much can be made of the lack of depth in AP courses. I know many teachers who cover the necessary content in order to prepare their students for the exam, but still find the time for projects such as history research papers. Also, keep in mind that some AP exams test skills, not content. The AP English exams, for example, test the ability to read closely and carefully, a skill that can be creatively taught in all sorts of ways. True, an AP class that lacks depth or is devoted to retaining factoids is a bad class, but this is more likely the result of lazy, unimaginative teaching, not the pressures of the exam.

Finally, for what it's worth, I was very skeptical of the AP exam process--at least until I had the chance to observe one of the massive conventions where they are actually graded. Most heartening was the emphasis on high standards. For example, the head readers repeatedly insisted that the highest grade on the essays (I saw the grading of the AP Language exam, which consists, in part, of three 40-miunte essays, each graded by a different reader) should be reserved for those papers that seemed "magical," that were not just cogent and well-reasoned, but also incisive and illuminating in their interpretation. I had the chance to read several of these excellent papers, and they all met these criteria. The head readers also urged the readers to watch out for essays that were well-written but workmanlike in their interpretation, somehwat obvious in their response. These sorts of essays were supposed to be graded in the middle of the scoring range. I came away from the experience convinced of the rigor of both the exams and the way they are graded.

Interestingly, there is a school of thought among educators that the exams are actually becoming a little less rigorous in recent years. I wonder whether this is true, and whether it could be a response to the explosion of students sitting for the exams.

By Marite (Marite) on Thursday, August 26, 2004 - 09:55 pm: Edit

Spoonyi: google William Lichten for his critique of AP-English. It's several years old but he blames declining rigor on the enlarged pool of tests-takers.

By Ohmadre (Ohmadre) on Friday, August 27, 2004 - 10:29 am: Edit

One motivation (whether or not they like to admit it) for taking as many AP courses as possible for some students, in systems that award weighted grades, is the extra boost an AP class gives the GPA. Its not just a matter of padding the resume with evidence of rigourous classes. Obviously, colleges factor out the weight in comparing candidates, but it makes it easier for high schools to make fine distinctions among the many top students and can make a big difference in rank, which colleges do consider. Not to say that capable students don't want and need the challenge of APs, but I think they do focus a lot on the short-term goal of class rank, and that may explain why they choose to take so many AP courses, sometimes in subjects they might otherwise not pursue, perhaps sacrificing other interests in the process.


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