AP classes: Making kids smarter or College Board richer?

I hope everyone had a good holiday. I am delighted to be back in Georgia after a week slogging through 22 inches of snow visiting family in the Northeast.

If anyone has kept up with education reading, a good debate raged on The New York Times Room for Debate blog about the value and integrity of AP classes. In my past reporting on the boom in AP classes, I have interviewed several of the experts quoted in the blog.

I found that the most consistent research suggested that AP classes were most valuable when the students took the AP test and scored a 3 or better. One of the researchers in the Times piece told me in an interview a few years back that the positive outcome on college performance was only visible in those students who had taken the AP test along with the course. She saw no enhancement in college performance in students who had taken AP classes in high school but had not sat for the AP exams.

(If you read the NYT, you will see that view espoused by several experts.) With my own two teens, I insisted that they take the AP tests if they were in an AP class.

My first inkling of the possible overselling of AP classes came about 10 years ago when I talked to two Georgia Tech math professors who maintained that AP classes were not the equivalent of college classes and that students who came to Tech loaded with math credits from AP classes were not ready for more advanced math. They thought the enthusiasm for AP was a scam to enrich the College Board, which owns the brand and the tests. (That view is voiced in the Times blog.)

Since then, I have heard that sentiment echoed by college professors in other disciplines. I know that many high school teachers say that the quality of AP classes has fallen because too many unqualified kids are being directed to the classes.

But were the courses ever all they were cracked up to be? Were they ever truly the equivalent of a college class?

Rather than push AP classes, is it better to simply let ambitious and able high school students take classes at Tech or GSU, as many of them now do?

61 comments Add your comment

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Billy Bob

December 27th, 2009
9:23 pm

I agree.
We should also tie HOPE scholarships to SAT or ACT test scores…not GPA.
Teacher are forced to give only A’s and B’s.

Mel

December 27th, 2009
9:28 pm

I agree completely that the classes are not what they used to be because too many kids are allowed to take them. I took AP classes 20 years ago and found them very challenging and the two I tested in (history and English) did help me in college. I chose not to test in calculus because I knew I wouldn’t be focusing on math – and realized I wasn’t going to excel at a higher level. I sincerely hope these classes continue to be an option when my children are in high school. However, I do not doubt that they need to be reviewed to ensure the classes are doing what they are intended to do, which is prepare students for a more indepth education in a subject area.

Brian F. Head

December 27th, 2009
9:29 pm

Of course, they are a scam, a very blatant one at that. I have taught at the university (now twice retired) and, subsequent to retirement, at the secondary school level, in an inner-city school. A HS student once explained that AP courses are the ones in which very little material is taught and the grades are inflated. No, such courses do not appear to help student educational development. But this is only one of the many scams of contemporary public education.

doh

December 27th, 2009
9:37 pm

Kids in Georgia are smart enough to take AP courses? I thought that was only a northern thing.

TechUG

December 27th, 2009
9:42 pm

Required Math courses at Tech are different than required courses at any other in-state public colleges. My AP Calc class prepared me for Calculus 1, but nothing after that. People I know at GAState and uga insist that they were well prepared for their classes and were able to exempt out of basic math classes and still pass the upper level required courses.

It all depends on the college.

Law Student

December 27th, 2009
9:50 pm

As with every college and high school course, the quality of AP classes depends on the way the course is structured, the students in the class, and the instructor. I took 5 AP classes in high school and EVERY class was at least as challenging as classes in college (and even many law school classes).

At my public school, every student in an AP course was required to take the AP exam–at no charge to the students.

Since 2002, the number of students taking AP courses has exploded. Many students who are not prepared for college course work are being steered into AP classes. I saw some statistics last year that at many schools, less than 25% of students achieved scores of 3 or higher. These students clearly are unprepared for a national examination. Either they are in the classes they are not prepared for or their teachers are not preparing the students.

wiley

December 27th, 2009
9:52 pm

Nothing can prepare you for the math at GT. But I took AP classes in other disciplines and they prepared me well for the rest of GT’s curriculum. You have to score a 4 in AP math to test up in calculus or statistics at GT…and only a 3 for all others that are not science classes.

Legend of Len Barker

December 27th, 2009
9:59 pm

I had 1.5 AP classes in high school. We offer a grand total of two. One was to last four years, the other for one year. I dropped the first after two years and count it as .5.

We did get bonus points on reports for taking the classes, but it wasn’t even close to inflation or really what we deserved. For AP English, it was either 3 or 5 points. In AP U.S. History, it was 3 points.

I don’t know if I’d call either a waste, but neither prepped me for college.

The English class was a mess. The teacher in ninth grade assumed we understood all the inner quirks of English and knew how to write. That was an insult as she had filled in for an eighth grade teacher the year before. She knew darn well what was on the curriculum. The 10th grade teacher was a joy, but I can’t remember learning anything about English. I dropped the class because I didn’t think the effort and struggles I was having was worth it. I could get an easy A in regular English and I went that route. It wasn’t until 12th grade that I learned what passive voice was. And it wasn’t until my freshman year of college that I learned how to actually write for content. I had a perfect 600 on the Georgia High School Graduation Test in English… without knowing what passive voice was.

To sum up this short novel, to me English wasn’t worth it. But your mileage may vary. I’ve had some good English teachers, but I represent the redneck quadrant of the state, which isn’t exactly raking in the state funds.

The AP U.S. History teacher tried and this was the first year in a long, long time in which the class was offered. We read Uncle Tom’s Cabin and The Jungle. We learned facts, but didn’t learn much in the way of applying them.

But is the answer letting them take college classes? I don’t think so. At least not here. We in the redneck quadrant are 45 minutes away from any college, be it a junior college, a four-year one, or a technical school.

I think AP classes still have merit, but in my experience they’ve been ill-fitting. Either over the students’ heads or a baby step above high school. It’s hard to find teachers who can encourage but challenge at the same time and that’s a necessity for high schoolers. College is the wild blue yonder and if you can’t tell the difference between the two groups of students, I encourage people to go down to Valdosta State during the summer when the Governor’s Honors program is taking place. These kids who have been singled out for their academic prestige don’t need to be in a college classroom. They’re just not ready emotionally or academically.

Mr. W.

December 27th, 2009
10:18 pm

I am a High School English teacher that came through an AP class, actually two that looped with the same teacher in a northern/midwestern state in an inner-city high school. If the regular teachers, which I am, would actually stand up and teach from 5-9/10, then AP still benefits the handful of students that are selected to take it; however, because general ed teachers are so engrossed with oversized classes, discipline issues, and passing scores on the overly easy, watered-down state tests, then the AP programs really are less effective as the children in them are less prepared from the get-go. I know I was. Like other posters before, I remember having classes but I learned nothing in them, not because of the teacher per se, but education as a whole is all about keeping the children busy, pretending to cover standards in depth, yet really only covering them on a surface level, as teachers are prodded about failure rates and making sure everything is multiple choice, easy, only using the lowest levels of thinking-simple recall, identification, and some basic applications. our students today are not only unwilling to actually do REAL work- creating, thinking, making new, increasing efficiency of, analyzing and breaking things down, etc, so we are in trouble. If we want to see a benefit to AP, it requires that we overhaul and change education as a whole, as we have let it evolve on its own, especially when we let companies like The College Board tell the educators on the front lines what and how to do things in the classroom. Unfortunately, its marketing cleverly guised as the best interests of the children.

Hall County Teacher

December 27th, 2009
10:32 pm

Our county wants to increase the number of students in our AP classes, so anyone who wants to take an AP class may do so (or if the students’ parents want them to take the classes, but the kids don’t want to!). When the AP scores were returned in the summer and the AP teachers at my school got stern lectures about not adequately preparing students even when the students put forth minimal effort or had poor attendance. When I reminded my principal that we are forced to accept anyone into an AP class without any prerequisites regarding previous grade performance, the principal was unhappy. When I suggested that we use the Gwinnett County model of actually making students apply and interview with the AP teacher for the course they wished to take before acceptance in a “college level class”, the principal gave my AP classes to a less experienced teacher who didn’t push the kids as hard and didn’t dare question a failing policy. I am headed to a private school where students are truly accountable and expected to perform to earn high marks. I am disgusted with public education and the lack of common sense applied by administrators who have no idea what is going on in their own schools’ classrooms!

Mattie

December 27th, 2009
10:42 pm

In our high school you need the ok from your previous year’s honors teacher to take the corresponding AP class. My son has scored 5 on all three of the math and science AP exams he took as a junior. This year, in addition to AP classes, he is taking calculus via a webcam with GA Tech. He isn’t a fan of it. He felt he learned much more under the AP calculus teacher last year. Because several school are involved in the webcam at once, it is difficult to get questions answered. The only way he can stay on top of it is by attending review sessions, held at Tech in the evening, some of which don’t end until well after 11:00. I am not thrilled to have him down there that late, to put it mildly.

C

December 27th, 2009
10:44 pm

The classes aren’t a scam. The push to expand enrollment is a scam. But the push is for both good and bad reasons. The good is that more kids are actually going to college (you could see that as bad as some colleges are nothing more than high school part II) and taking a more rigorous course in high school does lead to better college performance as long as it’s taken seriously. And a lot of my former AP kids tell me how it was one of the only classes that truly prepared them for what college would be like. And of course that praise was always after they went to college. “Hate me now, love me later” was my motto. The bad is that the CB is primarily pushing for expanded enrollment for financial gain. I’d like to see a serious competitor to that monopoly but it would take significant resources to make even a dent.

And to give a little perspective on how it might also be somewhat of a scam consider the percentage score required to get a 5, the top score, on the AP Chemistry exam. The last year I taught it the cutoff for a 5 was at 64%. Now consider what that would be on a traditional grading scale. 51% was the cutoff for a 4. Granted, it’s a very difficult exam, but I think that the bar has been set a little low. But to somewhat validate their scoring, generally speaking, a 5 on the exam meant you most likely had an ‘A’ in my course, a ‘B’ mostly guaranteed a 4, etc. And yes, even the kid that tried to fail did end up with a score of 1 on the exam.

em

December 27th, 2009
10:49 pm

The quality of an AP course depends on the quality of the instructor. I have both the practical business experience as well as the academic content background to teach both AP Macroeconomics and AP Microeconomics which, by the way, are senior courses. I do NOT sacrifice the rigor of either course for the underachieving nor neglectful student. And I do make sure that the course is very unforgiving to neglect. At our school, taking the AP exam is optional. Those students who chose to stay in the course and took the exam usually fared with a 3 or better. Feedback from my students who chose to stay in the course but did not take the exam, said that it helped them better understand introductory college microeconomics and macroeconomics. As with everything, I think AP has a place in schools but the bottom line is that quality begets quality.

Rhino

December 27th, 2009
11:22 pm

My son took AP Calculus and Physics at our local high school. He made a 5 on both exams. He is a second year at GT and exempted Calc I but took Physics I. He didn’t have much problem with Calc II and thought his high school AP was much tougher than Physics I at Tech. He felt the quality of intruction at our high school was better. He hasn’t been too impressed with the teaching ability of a lot of his instructors at Tech. In other words, the AP classes offered better instruction and they prepared him for College.

awantwin

December 27th, 2009
11:25 pm

I don’t think that AP classes are a SCAM at all. Earning a “B” in an AP classe is equivalent to an “A” in a regular class in high school. If students earn enough “A”s in high school taking AP classes, they can actually boost their GPAs, sometimes over a 4.0 and qualify well for scholarships!

Gwinnett Teacher

December 27th, 2009
11:34 pm

I teach at a Gwinnett County High School. There is NO screening, requirements, etc to sign up for AP classes. The AP teachers are VERY frustrated about the STUDENTS that are taking their classes that are NOT prepared or informed about the work level and study time that should be committed to taking an AP class. College Classes should be taught at COLLEGE……High School should be to prepare students for college…..

Chae

December 27th, 2009
11:37 pm

I took several AP classes in high school and learned a lot from them. I took the AP tests at the end — and really, wasn’t that the whole point? — scored well enough to get credits from my college. I was told that you had to score at least 3 to get college credits.

Our AP classes were harder and the teachers expected more from the students. The classes were graded fairly, and wasn’t weighted GPA-wise. If you did a A level work, you got an A and it counted as an A, not some A++ or something silly like that. That may be why only about 2 or 3 of the top 10 GPA students in my graduating class took AP level courses in their senior year.

if they dumb down the level of teaching in AP classes and then throw in bonus GPA for doing “well” in AP, then I don’t think you’re serving the students well.

GT12

December 27th, 2009
11:45 pm

It helps if you actually work hard in the AP class. I took 5 AP classes and got 5’s in each of them. I basically tested out of a semester of classes at GT. But the AP classes were certainly not near the level of difficulty of classes at GT. AP calc BC gets you out of only calc 1, but it doesn’t prepare you for the linear algebra in calc 2. But hey, that’s college. It should be harder than high school. I’m a second year ChemE with a 4.0 and I’d say that the AP classes definitely prepared me for the level of rigor that I’ve encountered here.

Mary

December 27th, 2009
11:46 pm

Most of the AP classes are a joke. The teaching philosophy for AP classes have changed over the past few years. Basically, the teacher does not teach. Instead, the student is required to learn on their own by excessive reading. There are several AP teachers in my high school who still do a good job and do not follow the new teaching philosophy. Also, there are a lot of students in my classes who don’t need to be. I was told they have to have larger classes to justify the class. In other words, if they don’t have a full class then the class might not be offered. What is going to be very interesting is to see how the new math in Georgia is going to effect the higher level classes once the current sophomores and freshmen get to be juniors and seniors. The new math is horrible. I try to help my sister and it’s a joke. They have no examples or books to go by. I am so glad I don’t have the new math curriculum. Also, the added boost on GPA’s aren’t even considered by colleges or HOPE. They look at non-weighted gpa’s. If gpa is what people are interested in, they are better off not taking the AP classes because they will score a higher grade in the regular class. I do think the classes prepare better for college because they require more studying.

GT12

December 27th, 2009
11:51 pm

Mary, I’m not sure if you’re in college or not. But the beginning of that paragraph basically described what you need to do in a real college class. If you can’t teach yourself or ‘read excessively,’ you will not do well in college.
AP classes really aren’t that hard. If you put an adequate amount of time into each class, you should do fine. Compared to the joke that regular classes are these days, you shouldn’t need a GPA boost.

GriffinMBABulldawg

December 27th, 2009
11:53 pm

Like anything, AP classes can be very beneficial. You have two issues that must be addressed separately: teaching quality and student motivation.

If the teachers are motivated and teach the material as directed by the College Board in a rigorous classroom environment, the students should receive college-level instruction. The students should also be prepared for the AP Exam in the specific subject area.

Many school administrators are eager to boost their AP offerings and enrollments. They do so without considering whether the students are capable, prepared or motivated for the advanced subject matter. In these situations, the teachers are thrust in situations with a percentage of students will perform will on the exam or in the class. I have heard this complaint from several friends who teach AP courses.

One note about Georgia Tech math courses: Calculus at Georgia Tech is designed to weed out the weak students. It is very tough. I have seen bright students in high school pummeled by the intensity of the Georgia Tech work load and rigor. Anyone exempting math or science with AP credit and going to Georgia Tech should carefully consider whether to actually skip the exempted classes.

I believe AP classes are a net positive. I will make sure my children attend a high school with a comprehensive offering of AP classes. They will take those AP classes that they are prepared for. Furthermore, in regards to motivation, if they put forth less than maximum effort in any of their classes, they will have to deal with my foot up their rear end. Better informed parents would help minimize the over-enrollment and motivation issues.

Second Generation AP'er

December 28th, 2009
12:15 am

I took AP classes and exams in high school — graduated in the 70s — and they were very tough. My youngest daughter though her junior year has taken six AP course and scored five on all of them — AP Scholar of Distinction, or some such — both in Humanities and Sciences. She has worked her butt off to get those scores.

Are they worth it? If you asked her she would say “yes” for two reasons. First, the AP classes at her school are selective and small; she sees direct benefit from having a qualified teacher and associating with the smart kids. (See NY Time article, “Are Your Friends Making You Fat”) Second, she is learning real skills in these classes. Making a five on a French exam requires true language skills that can’t be faked, compromised or crammed for. Same with Biology, or Physics, Chemistry, US History, etc. She earned these scores by mastering material through consistent effort over the course of a year. The intellectual capacity and commitment required to do this will translate directly into college achievement. (Unless she falls in love with some hirsute Marxist her freshman year. I did mention that I have two other college students, didn’t I?)

So, if she scores on her senior APs like she has thus far, she would enter UGA or GT with enough hours to be a junior. Does that mean she can blithely skip all of the classes that would be required in those two years? No, of course not. It does place her, however, in the appropriate stratum — a student that has demonstrated the ability to master a subject and who is worthy of the best instruction available at that university. I’m thinking that the fact the Hope will, with all of those completed hours at matriculation, pay for a double major or graduate school is just gravy.

And she’s not even Asian.

Ole Guy

December 28th, 2009
1:48 am

During my brief classroom interlude, I observed quite a few AP students who were, all-too-obviously, not AP material. Many parents, in an attempt to live vicariously through their offspring, would insist on their Little Johnny/Suzie being enrolled in AP. When these kids mature, they experience a level of frustration at not measuring up to the artificial levels of achievement to which they have been led to believe was genuine.

This is yet another reason why principals and teachers, rather than maintaining that safe PC posture, need to tell pushy parents to butt out of school decisions regarding their kids.

Nikita

December 28th, 2009
1:59 am

My high school allowed us to take APs as juniors with the permission of our parents and guidance counselors and as seniors we could take as many as we wanted at our own discretion. I did fairly well — taking 5 in total, getting 5s on all but one (for which I got a 3 because I was very ill and missed a lot of school time immediately prior to the test). I went to college with a combination of APs and CLEPs and exempted a year of credit. So it worked out very well for me — I did go to college for four years, but instead of spending time in rudimentary classes I took harder classes in my major and did study abroad.

Student

December 28th, 2009
2:20 am

I graduated in 2007 with 27 AP credits. They helped me tremendously by reducing the number of credits I would need to graduate. I basically only have to take 12 hours a semester and I will graduate on easily in 4 years. I had several reasonably difficult AP classes, such as statistics and both U.S. and World History. However, I had some extremely easy AP classes like Government & Politics that I slept through and got 4s. In my mind no AP class was as hard as the real deal at UGA, and I would consider myself pretty knowledgeable on it because I’m going through it now. The classes don’t need to be denigrated because wrong kids are going into them because the AP tests will automatically weed out the bad seeds.

Student

December 28th, 2009
2:25 am

I have a 3.9 and I do think that I was helped by AP classes as far as actually preparing me for classwork, but at the same time I thought some of them just didn’t do a good job getting me ready for the curriculum.

Ditto to Hall County Teacher

December 28th, 2009
6:48 am

There is a push by many public schools to increase enrollment in AP courses, especially at high schools that have previously not offered many AP courses or have “tracked” only honors students into AP courses. I find it quite interesting that some high schools boast 17-20 AP course offerings and yet have a passing rate (scoring a 3 or better on the exams) of 6-10%. What does that say about the tests? Too difficult or are the students not adequately prepared for the tests? What does that say about the quality of course and the teacher? Is it all about the taking this course with the title of “AP” in it so it appears on your high school transcript to impress admissions officers for colleges? Lastly, what does it say about the aptitude of the students in these courses? Do these students care about doing well on these exams if their exams are paid for them due to their low socioeconomic status? I know where the kids/parents pay $85 a test, the kids take the test seriously.

MS Maniac

December 28th, 2009
7:05 am

One of the reasons that AP classes are pushed is because it is a common set of standards nationwide. The AP tests are one of the few ways that colleges and universities can begin to judge the possible success of an applicant. Because the AP tests are standardized across the nation, they can assess (as well as a test can) how students do in Georgia with Massachusetts, Idaho, or California. That being said, the rigor of an AP class depends largely on the instructor and his or her willingness to make kids rise to the level required of a psuedo college class. As with most of the public school problems in Georgia, it comes back to the skills of the teacher and the support of the adminstration in making these classes rigorous. I do think it odd how some districts give students weighted GPAs for AP classes that change their grade by as much as a whole letter grade. I agree with giving some weight to the AP class to encourage the kids looking to get into competitive universities the incentive to take the classes, but 10 points?

Lynn

December 28th, 2009
8:13 am

Maureen,

For many students (and their parents) AP classes are the only way to try to manage all the negatives that exist in high school (both public and private) related to students who aren’t serious about their work and don’t behave. Some say, AP is the new College Prep (like 40 is the new 30).

I think the College Board operates so strangely, given that it is suppose to be a non-profit. Talk to DeKalb parents and teachers about Springboard, which has been discontinued, but was a very expensive product from College Board. It was a joke and a waste. The CB is now selling high school curriculum built on students taking tons of AP courses, several charter schools across the nation are using it. These are the schools that generally top the silly Newsweek list.

Angela

December 28th, 2009
8:31 am

When I was in high school, they did not have AP classes. We had “honors” classes, but the AP testing was not as prevalent. I did, however, take college classes while I was a JR and SR in high school during the summer. in those summers, I totaled 15 credit hours. I would say those college classes prepped me for college more so than the honors classes.

That being said, I am now a college student again. I have noticed that the young students straight from high school are seldom prepared for their basic college classes. None of the younger students in my basic statistics class knew how to use EXCEL. Basic writing skills are non existent in the freshman. The young students that are prepared are enrolled in honors courses in college, or have amassed enough college credits to bypass the freshman college experience.

We won’t even mention the maturity levels (or lack thereof) of those entering college. No human with the maturity level of a 12 year old can handle ANY type of college course. It doesn’t matter how many AP courses they take.

Old School

December 28th, 2009
9:11 am

I could be wrong here but there’s probably a monetary incentive for schools to beef up the numbers of students enrolled in AP classes. When I was in high school, there were no honors or AP classes. We were fortunate to have teachers who set forth and stuck to a rigorous course of study in all the academic areas. They were up on their feet teaching, encouraging feedback and questions, and most were available after class for explanations and clarification. All you had to do was pay attention, work hard, ask questions and get help when needed.

I’m not surprised that the emphasis on honors and AP classes seems to be for the purpose of earning scholarships instead of developing a strong foundation of the basic skills that will help a student succeed: study skills, personal responsibility, critical thinking, extension and application, grammar, reading for content & meaning, curiosity, time management, thinking outside the box, teamwork, ethics, research skills, imagination, computation & application. Honor cords or scholarships might not be the best goals outside the short term. That solid foundation of mastered skills and the thirst for continuing knowledge will serve students far better in the long run.

But if AP or Honors “looks good on a transcript” so be it. I just think there is so much that is more important in education.

Ernest

December 28th, 2009
9:14 am

Great topic as you will get different answers based on whom you ask….

Rather than push AP classes, is it better to simply let ambitious and able high school students take classes at Tech or GSU, as many of them now do?

Joint enrollment is an excellent option for students who want to experience the ‘rigor’ of college while still under their parents roof. Until the recent law regarding funding was passed, HOPE monies used for JE would count against the total allocation if the student elected to remain in GA for college. I’m pretty sure this was changed this past year.

As several of the commentaries from the article indicated, you can easily attribute the increases seen in AP classes as moves by school officials to provide greater ‘equity and access’ to these types of courses. One can point to the lack of access broken down by a combination of racial, socioeconomic, and ‘urban vs. rural’ categories. Add to the fact the GA pays for the AP exams for those that take the classes, many of the aforementioned categories found themselves further behind when they entered college to those that had access to this type of instruction in HS. Since this is a ’standard exam’, it should provide a measure both of the teacher, level of instruction, and students based on the outcome of the exams.

Libby

December 28th, 2009
9:33 am

Gwinnett AP is the biggest farce of all. They add 10 points to your final grade and teachers teach to the 10 points – their catch phrase when you ask about your child’s grade is “Remember there are 10 points that still need to be added.” But HOPE takes off the 10 points. So kids are left with an inflated grade for their GPA but no HOPE. Then just try to pull your child out of AP classes. The school then advises you that your child cannot take CP classes because they’ve already surpassed that level. Let’s don’t leave out the biggest lie of all – they tell you colleges look at the courses you’ve taken not just your GPA. WRONG! It’s SAT and GPA in that order. Once you get into the school and are registering for Freshman classes they’ll look then, but not before. Bottom line – Gwinnett AP classes are a scam!!!

em

December 28th, 2009
9:37 am

The quality of an AP course depends on how knowledgeable the instructor is in the subject matter. Many of my colleagues who teach AP courses are very well qualified especially in content, do an excellent job, and a large percentage of their students score three or above on their respective AP exam… and then there are those teachers who probably shouldn’t be teaching an AP course… I have both the practical business experience as well as the academic content necessary to teach AP Microeconomics and AP Macroeconomics, which, by the way, are reserved for senior students who are within a year of becoming college freshmen. My school has an open door policy for AP students, which I agree with as long as the student is willing to work hard; however, I do NOT compromise the rigor. Taking the AP exam at my school is optional and what I have found is that those who choose to take the AP Micro and Macro exams usually pass them. Feedback from those students who took the courses but not the exams, they have a better understanding of introductory college microeconomics and macroeconomics. I firmly believe that Advanced Placement courses have a place in high schools; however, teachers of AP courses should be well versed in their respective subjects, even tested, perhaps? I also believe that there should be an interview process for prospective AP students to let students know exactly what is in store since so many do not realize that AP courses are college material taught at the high school level.

FLAWoodLayer

December 28th, 2009
10:04 am

Basically the above comments offer a mixed view on AP courses and that it varies from place to place as do all courses. Just look at the EOCT grades when they come out and notice the discrepancy in passing a course and failing the EOCT, which by the way are a joke. It is real easy to tell where teaching is actually occuring. I have taught in both suburban and urban schools and for the upper income student, they all tended to take at least some AP offerings but probably would have succeeded in college, or not, on their own merit anyway. I taught rigorous courses and yes students said that it helped when they actually went to college and had to write and think critically. Where the major need for AP or IB classes is in the inner city school. No, most of the students in general ed classes would not have been successful in my class, but it wasn’t their fault. These students are so underprepared because the bar is set too low for them. I had students who did not pass the AP exam, some did, but all became better students. The high achievers in urban schools need tough courses to adequately prepare them. The problem is not enough AP/IB course offerings, lack of support from parents, faculty and admin, and few teachers qualified to actually teach a real AP course. I do not know if increasing AP is the answer but raising the standards in general education courses is mandatory.What we currently have is a joke.

Inatlanta

December 28th, 2009
10:06 am

I have known of the problems of AP classes in gwinnett since 2004. THey let all students take the courses. Yet, ALvin is suing the state to prohibit charter schools from existing without being placed under his control. If you follow the websites you know of the racial allegations concerning the PSC and Deerwood Academy. I wonder how the PSC could have let ALvin go, after signing off on discipline date not sent to the state, when racial discrimination, nepotism, and civil rights violations were abundant in his technology department. Knowing and then promoting the individuals responsible was/is reprehensible. I support charter schools. They are easier to manage, change and are more transparent than the system under Alvin. Alvin buildt schools, and raised slaries knowing of the inflated property values in Gwinnett. Now he is suing for money he/gwinnett schools need. Most people understand why Georgia schools rank so low, but yet our politicians do nothing to men like Alvin and the PSC. Welcome to Georgia and our antiquated public education.

For real?

December 28th, 2009
10:52 am

@Hall County:
It is laughable to think that you will find accountability at a private school; entitlement maybe but not accountability.

Realistic parent...

December 28th, 2009
11:14 am

Ole Guy,

As a parent, your point is ridiculous. You want the school to not allow my opinion regarding the education of my children. The high school staff did not know my children prior to them entering high school and will not remember my children after 4 years of high school. It is my responsibility to make sure my children receive a good education.

Fortunately, I look at the strength and weaknesses of my children and will not place them in an AP situation if they are not ready. At the same time, if my children are resting on their laurels and need to be push I will push them to be better.

AP Reader

December 28th, 2009
11:17 am

I’ve taught AP U.S. history and several other AP courses since 1989 and must say that when “done right” there’s no “scam” in AP. By done right, I certainly mean properly taught. This does not mean simply assigning “excessive reading” (though that is certainly necessary) but giving students the proper context for learning the curriculum and demanding evidence of high level learning. This requires that the teacher be a content expert and not merely a “facilitator” as is often advocated today. It also requires, at least in history classes, considerable time outside of class for the teachers (as well as the students). As for student qualifications, I have always supported open enrollment (anyone can take an AP class) but with a “let the buyer beware” policy to go with it. Students do fail my courses every year, and, fortunately, the administration at both schools (one in DeKalb and one in Fulton) has always supported me when parents complained that I was “too hard”.

One should certainly view as suspect any AP class taken without the exam. Moreover, there should be a clear correlation between course grade and AP Exam score. AP teachers who have students scoring A’s or B’s in the course but score 1 or 2 on the exam need close scrutiny. Additionaly, in my experience, they do get it.

Finally, as a “reader” for the AP U.S. history exam, I can say that the quality of the essays we read have declined over the years and this can and probably should be correlated with the increasing numbers of students taking the exam. I certainly read essays which indicate the students did not get the caliber of instruction they needed. I can also say with great confidence that those students are not earning 4’s or 5’s on the exam. Check the statistics for your school/school system. If the kids are passing the class (especially with A’s or B’s) but scoring 1’s and 2’s on the exam…

Bottom line, there’s no “scam”. If colleges aren’t looking at AP performance, both on the exam and in the courses, they should be.

Ernest

December 28th, 2009
11:22 am

Maureen, can you free a post I submitted this morning?

Maureen Downey

December 28th, 2009
11:35 am

Ernest, You are out and thanks for the note on the AP stuff. I think this issue really needs to be evaluated closely as there is this stampede toward more and more AP.
Maureen

parent of JE-er

December 28th, 2009
12:50 pm

Ernest,

My oldest is in a JE program, and they have told us that the hours during the JE is deducted from the total HOPE allocation.

In general, I think AP is more for HS than for students – they want to say so many AP classes are offered there and so many students take them. But, do they prepare them for college? Some do and others don’t, and this inconsistency is a problem. Moreover, others noted that AP classes are taught by “qualified” teachers, but what makes them that different? They are still HS teachers. Besides, I think “average” and “below average” students also deserve “qualified” teachers teaching them, too.

The fact whether or not you will get college credits depend on your performance on one particular test on a particular day is also a problem. No single test should be used as a way to evaluate students’ academic achievement.

I’ve talked with college math professors, and they would be much happier to get well prepared students ready to take calculus I as freshmen than having students in Calc II because they had a 4/5 on AP test.

Mary's Mom

December 28th, 2009
12:53 pm

Libby is correct. I am a high school counselor. Although I believe a child who takes AP classes will be better off “in the long run”, I recommend that parents and students think hard about the AP and Honors classes they sign up for. Colleges DO NOT look at the rigor. They look at SAT, ACT, and GPA. If a student is on the bubble for admitance, then the AP classes may help the student for acceptance. However, the student is more prepared for college because of the study habits they form. My daughter is correct. She has several AP teachers who basically sit at their desk and monitor their reading assignments. There is minimal lecturing and virtually no teacher skill involved in several of her classes. This is not uncommon. My advice to my daughter has been to not overload herself in high school. I believe one or two AP or Honors classes per semester is the best option. Also, GT12, you are correct. I think it is a shame where public education is heading. Regular classes are a breeze. Teachers are not allowed to give zero’s. The schools don’t want failures because they are judged on their failure rate. There is no true GPA.

Ernest

December 28th, 2009
1:58 pm

You are right, parent of JE-er. Seems I got some incorrect information with regards to how the HOPE allocation works for JE students. Per section 905.3b, monies for JE goes against the overall HOPE allocation for the student, if the remain in GA. I found it at:

http://www.gsfc.org/main/publishing/pdf/2009/accel_regs.pdf

E

December 28th, 2009
2:20 pm

I think the whole test = value thing should be considered in a different light. Many of these classes require the whole class to take the test if they take the class. Those classes must teach to the standard, and usually are of better quality, in order to maintain their average.
In the classes that do not, it will not significantly change the child’s education to make the individual student sit for a few hours in a room filling in bubbles.

Lynn

December 28th, 2009
3:00 pm

What about the schools (Cobb County) that let the principal decide to offer AP classes on a block schedule? Finishing the AP class in December and taking the test in April/May severely hurts the pass rate of these students. We even have principals offering an AP course only once in the year and choosing Fall for the semester the course is offered. There needs to be more consistency across our schools to improve the performance on AP tests. Letting a principal brag about how many AP courses are offered while assigning half the population to a permanent Fall rotation of block classes is not fair to the student.

Momofsix

December 28th, 2009
3:13 pm

In Douglas County, the AP classes which are a full year are being cut into one semester, which is a travesty. Yet, the advertising from the school system is that they offer more AP classes every year. The best AP US History teacher I have ever met is Mrs. Holly Perry of Chapel Hill High School in Douglasville. She teaches with rigor, and never sits down at her desk. She challenges and frustrates her students and engages them fully. Of course, this was before the course was cut to one semester.

And as for standards, there appear to be none in Georgia. It is quite simply, a show. I have lived and taught in several counties in the state and the only standard is whatever it takes to look good to the parents and the public. It is irrelevant if the children cannot compete nationally or globally as adults.

Lee

December 28th, 2009
3:39 pm

Speaking of “making kids smarter,” how’s this for starters?

Science Labs are just for white kids anyway, so, to bridge the Black/White achievement gap, Berkley decides to do away with science classes.

http://www.eastbayexpress.com/ebx/berkeley-high-may-cut-out-science-labs/Content?oid=1536705

Ernest

December 28th, 2009
4:07 pm

Lee, thanks for sharing the link! It is scary to think that a school system would consider something like this. Hopefully the citizens in Berkeley will stand up and not let this happen as I believe it will ultimately hurt those they hope it will help.