AP classes and college: How many are enough?

Over the holiday, I spoke to a friend about the classes her two teenage daughters are taking this year.  The older teen is a senior at a top private school near the family home in New York. The younger is a junior at the local public high school.

What surprised me is how few AP classes they’ve taken. Each teen has only been in one AP course. My friend was not aware of the push — at least here in Georgia — to get more kids into AP.  She was surprised to learn that elite colleges expect to see at least four AP classes on transcripts of applicants, especially if the teens attend high schools with a full roster of AP offerings.

Her teen attending public school is a strong math and science student, scoring 700 0n the PSAT in math. Yet, as a junior, she hasn’t taken an AP math or science course. She has taken honors classes, but those seem to have fallen out of favor with colleges because every high school sets its own standards for what constitutes “honors.” In many high schools, honors courses are essentially the traditional college-prep track.

(In 2006, Georgia ended its half-grade lift to honor classes, saying that what passes for honors work at one school is standard fare at another. Faced with the inconsistencies in both rigor and weighting, the Legislature voted to cease factoring extra points from honors classes into the grade-point average used to determine HOPE eligibility.)

Apparently, neither the public nor private high school prodded my friend’s daughters to jump from honors classes to AP. Here in Georgia, the message seems to have been heard that students aiming for UGA or Tech must take the most rigorous courses available at their school. And that typically means AP classes.

That’s also what the select private colleges tell me; they want to see that students have availed themselves of the most challenging courses offered at their schools. (I was reading one of those web sites where high school seniors pose questions to admissions experts. Among the questions dealing with AP classes:  I’ve taken 17 AP’s and I’ve gotten straight A’s in all of them, and I’m the valedictorian. Unfortunately, I haven’t taken AP Calc. I did Precalc Hon. and AP Stat. Most of the other top students took Calc, and math has been my worst subject. How will that affect my admissions?)

More students in Georgia are taking AP classes. Only five other states in the country had a greater percentage of AP exam takers last year. The percentage of Georgia seniors who took an AP exam was 38.2 percent, compared to 30.2 percent for the nation. I know many metro high school students graduating with seven to nine AP classes.

Some of you saw out-of-state nieces and nephews over Thanksgiving.  I would be curious to hear whether they report the pressure to enroll in AP classes that we see in Georgia high schools.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

78 comments Add your comment

RealTimShady

November 26th, 2012
5:22 am

Math is probably not the best example for AP courses — there are only two AP Math courses offered by the College Board (Calculus and Statistics) and both of those are typically offered in the senior year. The same is true with English and AP; the two courses — AP Language and AP Literature — are typically not offered until the junior and/or senior years. The hardcore science courses — AP Biology and AP Chemistry — would also probably not appear on a student’s record until 11th grade or 12th grade, though some schools are beginning to offer those coures sooner. Students who have taken 17 AP classes most definitely started with some of the “easier” APs like Human Geography, Psychology, or Environmental Science. These courses, when taught well, serve as a kind of “Introduction to AP” for students who might be finding their academic ways at 9th and/or 10th Grades.

SGA Teacher

November 26th, 2012
5:57 am

At my school in rural SGeorgia, there is definitely a larger push into AP courses. For instance, in 2006, we had ONE class of AP lit, now there is over 10. Additionally, there is more AP across the board with science, math and social studies. There is a push to have our Spanish teachers certified as well in AP.

Kids are basically being pushed into AP whether they pass the test or not.

catlady

November 26th, 2012
6:43 am

At our local school, not so much. Only 4 courses are offered, that I know of. My son took none, and his sisters only one.

catlady

November 26th, 2012
6:48 am

BTW, we are told we have “too many” sped kids.

bootney farnsworth

November 26th, 2012
7:08 am

of course there is. the more AP kids, the more federal dollars the system gets, and the more notches principals and system administrators can put on their belts as the claw up the ladder.

is it what’s best for the kids? who cares?

Ronin

November 26th, 2012
7:25 am

Yes. When the majority of your students test below the national average, there is a concerted effort to showcase your “best and brightest” with a push toward greater participation with A/P classes.

One of the problems with public education in GA is the dogma which is delivered by the educrats.
“We’ve always done it this way, so why change?”

It will be interesting to see in 10 years, what the charter program changes (if anything).

jarvis

November 26th, 2012
7:26 am

If everyone’s special, no one is special.

DunMoody

November 26th, 2012
7:27 am

In my kids’ school, students are pushed into AP courses without regard to their capabilities. Below-3 AP test scores are the norm in many science classes (with a too-high number of 0’s and 1’s). The administration’s reaction is that it’s more important to cite total number of AP enrollments than strong outcomes because they are measured on the former, not the latter. Just try to ask about the trended AP scores by subject – that information “isn’t relevant” in course selections. Disagree. Strongly.

Hey Teacher

November 26th, 2012
7:28 am

AP courses = tracking here in the South. We’ve dumped our vocational programs (many of those are still available in the NE) so the regular classes have become “vocational”. The AP courses in many schools are simply code words for “college bound”. That is not the case in every school but it is in many.

Panthergirl

November 26th, 2012
7:33 am

I have wondered the same thing. My high-achieving 12th grade niece, who is ranked in the top 10% of her catholic high school in Ohio, had only taken 3 AP classes by the end of her junior year. There is only one current 12th grader at her school that has been awarded the AP Scholar award. As a contrast, my 11th grade son at Lambert High School in Forsyth will have taken 7 AP classes by the end of his junior year. He knows juniors at Lambert that will have taken even more AP classes.

Dr. Craig Spinks/ Georgians for Educational Excellence

November 26th, 2012
7:41 am

Being a “leading state” in testing attempts is one thing. But how well our kids perform on AP tests is a more important consideration. The most recent Governor’s Office of Student Achievement data (2010-11) reveal that our kids scored 3-or-higher on 52.2% of the AP tests they took. How does this “passing rate” compare with that of kids in other states? What percentage of our state’s HS students passed at least one AP test last year?

Steven

November 26th, 2012
7:54 am

AP classes are better(but not great) at preparing students for college. BUT I would like to know of that 38% of Georgia high school seniors that took the AP exam what percent actually scored a 3 or better. It is very disappointinig to take an AP class and think that you are entering college ahead of the pack, but then the registrar says, “You didn’t make the minimum AP score, and NOW it’s too late or classes are already too full.”

Steven

November 26th, 2012
7:57 am

AP classes are better (but not great) at preparing students for college. BUT I would like to know of that 38% of Georgia high school seniors that took the AP exam what percent actually scored a 3 or better. It is very disappointing to take an AP class and think that you are entering college ahead of the pack, but then the registrar says, “You didn’t make the minimum AP score, and NOW it’s too late or classes are already too full.”

Maureen Downey

November 26th, 2012
8:13 am

@Real time. Talked to some freshmen from north Fulton over the holiday — they were already in an AP class. I believe it was Human Geography. That seems to be the class of choice when kids take AP as freshmen. My understanding is the same as yours, that younger high school students take AP Psych or Human Geography.
Maureen

William Casey

November 26th, 2012
8:21 am

I’m a believer in A.P. Courses because the exams are standardized nationwide and this gives the student a realistic view of where he/she stands. My son was awarded 27 semester hours of A.P. credit at Georgia Southern for classes he took at Northview HS. This enabled him to receive two degrees from Georgia Southern in four years. I taught A.P. classes from 1981 until 2006. The experience made me a better all-around teacher. What’s not to like?

William Casey

November 26th, 2012
8:24 am

I’m NOT a great believer in AP classes for 9th-graders. With RARE exceptions, they just aren’t ready for the rigors of a true college class at that age.

Ben

November 26th, 2012
8:26 am

How can AP classes count for anything when the teachers who teach them are cheating on their standardized tests to become teachers? Plus the significance and quality of “AP” classes vary based on the school where they are taught; An AP class taught at any Atlanta public high school does not equal an AP class taught at a school like Marist, Paidaia or Westminster. The only thing that those schools have in common is the AP label and colleges know which respective school’s programs are really valid and the schools whose programs are just a label to be “school of the year” in systems led by principals and administrators like Beverly Hall.

RJ

November 26th, 2012
8:29 am

It really depends on what school a student is trying to get into as to whether or not they should take AP. My daughter only took 2 AP courses. One was music theory. She made a 4, however I advised her NOT to go straight into year two of music theory. Some schools don’t allow it anyway. That class helped her greatly. She’s breezing through Music Theory I in college.

My son doesn’t even want to take the honors math class his teacher insisted he be placed in, so I’m not sure if I will encourage him to take a load of AP classes. He needs to mature. I think this is the case for a number of students. Too much too soon is not good. Some kids will go to Tech, while others will take a year or two to grow up (or save money) and go to Georgia Perimeter or the like. Either way, they each can find success.

Pride and Joy

November 26th, 2012
8:30 am

Of course it is all about the money. Just as catlady says, “there are too many sped kids” in her school.
Of course, the more kids that are labled as “special needs” means more money for the system.
The same goes for AP classes. It’s all about “appearing” to have a good education system in GA.
The most important statistic is that 40% of ALL GEORGIA STUDENTS drop out of high school and never graduate — of the 60% that did graduate, what is their diploma worth?
The metro Atlanta system is focused on “closing the achievement gap.” So APS offers more and more AP classes hoping to close the gap for AA students.
It should focus on the biggest problem all we Georgian’s face — educating all children to their full unique abilities regardless of race or gender or economic background.
A high school education is an absolute necessity. A REAL high school education is a MANDATE.
Why is Georgia so pitifully behind in this most basic need?
The answer is politics.
Screw the politics.
Educate the kids!

DunMoody

November 26th, 2012
8:38 am

With so much emphasis placed on AP tests by colleges, the quality of instruction and support is increasingly critical. Unfortunately, I have heard (yes, during teacher conferences) too many times that AP students should be able to self-teach much of the material independently. I’m a former teacher, now a parent, and I know better. Is this a dodge because the teacher isn’t fully prepared to teach the material? Is the teacher getting adequate support in terms of continuing education and classroom materials? Are the much-higher classroom populations part of the problem? Are expectations lowered because many of the students aren’t actually ready for the course content? Is there a critical disconnect between administration mandates and school counseling information given to parents and students? Is Race to the Top adding to the pressure?

For example, more public high schools are encouraging sophomores to take AP Chemistry, despite College Board recommendations to wait until both high school chemistry AND algebra are completed. In the current math curriculum, that sophomore begins the course with NO background in chemistry and inadequate math readiness. What data supports the idea that sophomores should take AP Chemistry despite College Board recommended prerequisites?

I agree with William Casey that AP courses have many, many benefits in terms of rigor and college prep. But school counseling should be focused on the student’s needs and readiness, not a Central Office mandate to increase the number of students taking AP courses.

Concerned DeKalb Mom

November 26th, 2012
8:46 am

If AP courses–the full-year ones–are taught as they should be, then it would be an overwhelming experience to take more than 3 in a year. And it should be completely overwhelming to even do 1 as a freshman.

I think that the problem in GA is that AP courses are watered-down, by and large. If you don’t have well over half of your class receiving 3’s and above, then it’s a worthless AP course, in my opinion.

DunMoody

November 26th, 2012
8:48 am

Conversely, Maureen … many parents push their students to take AP courses instead of the honors or gifted level because they perceive AP teachers are the strongest in the school. So by choosing AP courses, they “game” the course selection system.

red herring

November 26th, 2012
8:54 am

agree with ap classes not meaning much when watered down and/or taught by teachers who cheat. having said that I also know of instances where kids graduated high in their class with many AP courses under their belt then couldn’t manage to keep the hope scholarship. now that would be an interesting study to see if someone ever did one. since the creation of hope scholarship there has been much dumbing down of high school courses in order to create more scholarships.

mother of 2

November 26th, 2012
8:56 am

My son, who is a junior in a public school in North Fulton, is currently taking 3 AP classes. His guidance counselor is recommending that he take at least 3 next year to be competitive. Most of his friends took AP in 9th and 10th grade as well, so they will have at least 8 AP classes by the time they graduate from high school. We chose to have my son only take AP classes in the subjects that he’s most interested in – quality over quantity. However, he has been told that this will put him at a disadvantage when applying to UGA and GA Tech.

Because we live in a rather high achieving school district, there is quite a bit of competition and pressure to perform. The teachers and guidance counselors want our students to attend the more selective colleges, so they push kids to take more AP. Some kids can handle the pressure and some can’t, so it’s important to know your own child’s limits.

If my son doesn’t get into UGA or GA Tech, there is probably a reason – perhaps he doesn’t belong there. He’ll find a school that suits his needs and be successful.

BHG

November 26th, 2012
9:00 am

When I was a senior, I didn’t take a single AP class… I took actual college classes at VSU through the joint enrollment program. I had no problem getting into Tech, and I started off with several of those credits transferring directly (so I got to skip a lot of the freshman “weed-out” courses). Granted, not everyone has that option, but I thought it was a much more practical path for me.

How does that compare to today? Are joint-enrollment classes still viewed favorably, or is it really all about the AP?

Gwinnett Mom

November 26th, 2012
9:04 am

“In 2006, Georgia ended its half-grade lift to honor classes, saying that what passes for honors work at one school is standard fare at another. Faced with the inconsistencies in both rigor and weighting, the Legislature voted to cease factoring extra points from honors classes into the grade-point average used to determine HOPE eligibility.”

Maureen, are you sure about that? It’s my understanding that, yes, those points are stripped for Hope calculation, but they are INCLUDED when calculating GPA and class rank. I know two students who lost Hope because those points were stripped, even though they had a B average in all their classes, which included Honors courses. Believe me, it was a rude awakening for both students and parents.

Lady GaGa

November 26th, 2012
9:10 am

Students should be passing with that 3 or better on AP tests, however, some of the research shows that just taking an AP course in HS leads to better grades in college and college completion. It makes since, the more prepared you are for the rigors of college, the better you will do. Preparing my middle school student now for AP classes in high school.

Maureen Downey

November 26th, 2012
9:12 am

@Gwinnett, You are correct. Individual schools can add weights for class ranking for honors classes and dual enrollment. I was referring to state of Georgia policy on GPA weighting specifically in terms of HOPE and Zell Miller money.
Also, in terms of assessing applicants, colleges tell me that that they strip GPA weightings related to honors courses.
So while high schools can add a grade-lift to honors, colleges have formulas that recalculate GPAs without the lifts.
Maureen

living in an outdated ed system

November 26th, 2012
9:23 am

Many of you might not believe I feel this way, but as someone who has been conducting alumni interviews for more than 20 years, I truly feel that we have lost the original intent of the AP courses and exam. And because of this, we are putting way too much pressure on students who take as many as 5-6 AP courses in a year!

The original intent was to reward students who are taking accelerated classes in the high schools so that they did not have to “repeat” the same course in their college Freshman year, and thus, pay $ for a course they didn’t need to take. But now, it’s become a “race to the top” mechanism and another high stakes exam that the students have to take if they want college credit.

AP courses have lost their original meaning, and it’s another chance for teachers to “teach to the test,” and parents are allowing their children to take an overwhelming number of AP classes in a given school year. Parents, educators and students need to work together to find a balance between academic enrichment and life.

Ivan at Chyten

November 26th, 2012
9:24 am

Here are some AP facts that many parents don’t know. AP is the second-highest level of high school courses, after IB which is offered at only a handful of schools. AP and IB courses contain college-level material. AP is a trademark of College Board (CB), just like SAT and PSAT exams. CB mandates standards for each AP course just like Georgia and other states mandate standards for other courses. CB updates several of the 30+ AP course standards each year. CB must approve each AP course curriculum before a district is approved to deliver the AP course. CB provides training for teachers before they may teach AP. CB administers AP exams for 30+ AP subjects over a 2-week period in May of each year. Colleges may choose to offer college credits and/or improved course placement to high-scoring AP students. AP is hard, college-level work for any high school student, anywhere in the country.

NorthAtlantaParent

November 26th, 2012
9:35 am

You have some useful information in this post. While the average academic achievement for GA public school students is ranked at the bottom of all states, our top 1% is ranked among the top 5 in the nation in recent years. Such data exists. Just look up Duke TIP Center eligile students. In 2012, out of 50 Bevan scholars in 20+ states that participate in Duke TIP, 8 are from GA. Bevan scholars are 7th graders who score perfect on one or more subtests of SAT. There are also many 7th graders in North Atlanta public schools who score over 700 (out of 800) in math or critical reading section of SAT. Of course, Atlanta is ranked top 5 in terms of the number of skilled immigrants and these outstanding academic achievements are directly related to that stat.

Things are changing rapidly in our school system.

Mattie

November 26th, 2012
10:05 am

I don’t think AP has become meaningless in GA, certainly not in the northern suburbs. My son arrived at the UGA honor’s college with 42 credits behind him, through AP and dual enrollment at Tech. He could have gotten his degree in 2 years, but opted to hold off taking that one PE credit he needs till his senior year, and use his Zell Miller scholarship to his advantage.

He has managed to keep his honors status as well as scholarship money, but he spent the entire break last week doing homework and studying for finals.

His brother took no AP classes in HS. He will hopefully graduate from GA Southern in 5 years.

One boy was well prepared for college work, one wasn’t.

Maryland Jacket

November 26th, 2012
10:17 am

It certainly depends on the school. I graduated in 2007 from a public high school in Maryland, and the push for AP classes has been astounding. Upon graduation, we could be designated as Bronze Scholars (2-3 AP classes and AP tests taken), Silver Scholars (4-5 AP classes + tests) and Gold Scholars (6+ AP classes). My graduating class only saw two Gold Scholars (I had been a Silver Scholar), while my brother’s graduating class (in 2010) saw nine or so.

That being said, AP classes were a lot more available to my brother’s graduating class than to mine. We probably only had nine possible AP classes. I missed out on AP Chemistry, which was not offered my junior and senior years, along with AP Biology (conflicted with another AP class), AP Enviornmental Science (which was well over capacity) and AP Writing (offered as an alternative to AP Lit). By the time my brother graduated, he could have taken twelve or so AP classes.

They do work, though. I graduated from Tech in 2011 (CS), he’s a junior at Johns Hopkins (neuroscience)

DCSS Mom

November 26th, 2012
10:19 am

Slightly changing the subject, my daughter takes AP courses and attends a DeKalb County school. We received a letter last month stating that we would now have to pay $89 for each AP exam taken from now on due to budget cuts. Is this statewide? Or just DeKalb County?

Attentive Parent/Invisible Serfs Collar

November 26th, 2012
10:23 am

Maureen-that 9th Grade AP Human Geography course is not Geography as most of us think of it. In fact it really appears to be a Cultural Anthropology course. From listening to backseat conversations I would say the College Board is using the same strained interpretation for Geography when they really mean Bronfenbrenner Ecological Systems Thinking. It also showed up in last week’s CCSSO “Vision for the College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Framework for Inquiry in Social Studies State Standards.” Geography to me is NOT viewing “humans as living in interdependent relationships within diverse environments among the planet’s many species.”

I am seeing the same problems in that Framework as I have seen in the revised AP history courses. It is bad history. In the case of the Framework it appears to want to gut the US Constitution as it exists and teach American students duties that do not exist and a political structure that does not currently exist as well.

With David Coleman having shifted from his position in charge of the Common Core State Standards that ultimately produced that Framework to a College Board that was already created new course frameworks designed to teach students things that were not so and leave out the hard facts that matter, I see this only getting worse. David’s decision to be a lead speaker at Camp Snowball in July pushing Systems Thinking and education centered around Sustainability does not bode well for further reworks of the AP science courses. It tells me they will shift to being Constructivism based.

So just be careful parents. When AP thinks that 21st Century students should be taught that Communism is merely an international system for controlling economic resources, that’s a lot of deaths to ignore. That kind of overt propagandizing is why the AP Frameworks eventually were postponed.

Attentive Parent/Invisible Serfs Collar

November 26th, 2012
10:28 am

I left out for World History.

And Constructivism Based AP Science Courses fits with the Framework for the new Common Core Science Standards.

It will be a real shame when the only students who actually know math and science as sequential bodies of knowledge will be those whose parents hire tutors or who have a parent with that knowledge who recognizes the holes being consciously created.

Big Al

November 26th, 2012
10:35 am

Stop pushing the AP rubbish. The vast majority of the skills that a child will need in life will not be learned in the classroom. Put the book down. Stop starring at a computer screen. Go outside, socialize, and have some fun.

Another Voice

November 26th, 2012
10:42 am

Our school recognizes that the AP classes are more rigorous, and limits students to 1 in sophmore year, 2 in junior year, and 3 for senior year.

Talking to the admissions director for an Ivy League school, she tells me the most important factor is what the school offers your child, and what they do with the opportunities. So she knows what limits a school or system places on number of APs, and evaluates the student accordingly. If you have the option to take honors or AP and choose regular, that’s a factor in her decision to admit/reject the student. But if a school offers only a handful of AP or honors, and the child takes advantage of all, that will weight heavily in favor.

Also note that many schools no longer give credit towards graduation, but rather allow the student to place into a higher-level course. And that was part of the original intent of AP courses: standards applied nationally, and results to be used by colleges to advance students into the next level course. The whole “graduate in less time” concept was something that less competitive colleges allowed in order to increase enrollment of the more attractive (ie, higher-scoring) students, which in turn made the schools look more competitive.

Decaturite

November 26th, 2012
10:42 am

Even in highly-rated Decatur High School, AP courses = tracking with the AP courses having the best teachers and best students so everything else is lower quality. Only a few sophomores are ready for true college-level courses, but they are pushed to take them anyway by current high school culture and by parents, for the myriad of reasons listed above–makes school look good, only way to get best teachers, only way to get classes with learning going on, looks good on college application, etc. The only good reason is that AP courses offer more academic enrichment and prepare one for college work. But ALL high school courses should be doing that. I wish we’d go back to having regular level, college level, advanced level, and a scattering of AP courses for students truly ready for them, with enough flexibility that students could mix and match and take the courses that truly fit them. A whiz in math may be only mediocre in language arts and vice versa. Right now, it’s either/or. Take AP courses or lose out. You can’t blame the kids or parents for choosing the AP route, ready or not.

IB diploma= even worse tracking than AP.

I agree with the poster above who said that schools boasting about students in AP courses or with IB diploma programs is about appearances and distracts the public from overall mediocre performance. Public high schools can trot out their AP and SAT successes, display their “career academy” (formerly known as vocational education) options for kids who are struggling, and then ignore the majority of the students in between. This is not a diabolical plan but just the nature of educational bureaucracy which is not held to as a high a standard as its AP and IB diploma students!

Our relatives in New England report that their public high school does not allow students to take AP classes until their unior year and then usually only one. The students are mostly college bound, with several National Merit Scholars annually despite being no bigger than Decatur High School, and many more elite college acceptances than we see here. So AP courses and IB are not a necessary element for a high school to be successful. In fact, they seem like superficial makeup given our state’s low academic performance, and inadequate funding, support, and respect for public education.

Teacher

November 26th, 2012
10:44 am

@Attentive Parent

If we were to attach body counts to every economic system, students would never learn anything about economics.

Lee

November 26th, 2012
10:45 am

Of course, the greatest benefit of a student taking AP, Honors, and College Prep classes is that it gets the student away from the future felons.

M.E.

November 26th, 2012
10:47 am

My kids have loved AP classes. They find them more rigorous than honors. When my oldest began college, he began as a sophomore due to all of his credits. But AP classes are not like college classes, although they may have some of the college-level content. As of yet, no teacher has handed either of my kids a syllabus at the beginning of the semester and told them they were responsible for meeting the deadlines. There is a ton of busywork and homework. Students who feel pressured to be in AP classes instead of driven usually fail the test, especially if they attempted to cheat their way through class. But mostly what I see is a blurring of when kids are ready for college—-where tradition says college starts at 18 and ends at 22, more students are starting college at 16-17 and ending by the time they are 21. Is college becoming the new high school? How are college-educated and supposedly professionally-ready 20-and 21-year-olds affecting our work force? Is our concept of maturity changing?

bbb1467

November 26th, 2012
10:59 am

Several of the top Atlanta private schools limit the number of AP’s available, due to the increased rigor of the “regular” classes, all of which are considered “college prep”. The emphasis is on quality not quantity, with a lot of the kids scoring 5’s on the AP exams. 100% of my kids’ classmates went to college, many to Ivy League schools or to the “public Ivy’s” like Virginia, UNC, or places like Stanford or Northwestern, so it is obvious you don’t need 15+ APs to “make it”. As usual, Georgia public schools put their emphasis on gimmicks like tons of AP exams instead of offering quality instruction across the breadth of the curriculum. It is just like the way they spend millions of dollars on new buildings but scimp on everything else. It is NOT the building. My kids private school resides in buildings much older that all the public schools that are tearing down perfectly fine buildings to build new ones. I guess the insiders can get better perks and kickbacks from building construction than from investing in quality education.

Christine Solomon

November 26th, 2012
11:01 am

My oldest son and I toured and attended information sessions at 12 colleges last year, including UGA, Ga Tech, Emory, Vanderbilt, Georgetown, Duke and UNC-CH, among others. Many of these colleges only award college-credit unit for AP scores HIGHER than a 3 — only 4’s, and 5’s.

The best way to see if these credits will transfer (assuming more-and-more a ‘4′ score on the AP test) is to pick the student’s top three schools and look at the recent college admission bulletins to determine which specific AP subjects will be awarded credit.

The dual-enrollment option seems a ’safer’ way to assure credit transfer to colleges, but, again, check with the individual colleges and assess your AP-course selection by ‘backing into it’ from the college perspective.

About the ‘honors’ and ‘AP’ weighting: for HOPE and Zell Miller monies, the GPA is re-calculated for ONLY core courses (math, science, social studies, English, foreign language); all courses are un-weighted, except 0.5 is added to the grades for AP CORE classes.

So, while AP Microeconomics, for example, may get some consideration when looking over the overall ‘rigour’ of a high school transcript, it won’t be considered any more than ‘Body Sculpting 101′ or ‘Front Office elective’ in the GPA cut-off for the HOPE and Zell Miller scholarships.

There are at least a few GPAs to be calculated: 1) the high school GPA (Walton High School, for example, reports their students GPAs to colleges as weighted, letting each of them figure out the un-weighted GPA if they require it); 2) each individual college’s determination of your student’s GPA (many colleges re-calculate the reported GPA to an un-weighted one, including core and non-core classes); 3) the HOPE/Zell Miller GPA (un-weighted CORE classes with 0.5 added to the GPA for AP core classes).

(A friend’s daughter took AP Microeconomics last year as a senior in high school because she thought it’d ‘look good’ on her transcript. Her mom only realized AFTER the drop-add period that her daughter was failing the course! Only because the Mom begged and it was a private school with some ‘leeway’ was she able to get the course dropped from her daughter’s transcript without affecting her high school GPA.)

Students in northern suburbs of Atlanta take AP for at least five reasons: 1) best teachers; 2) smaller classes; 3) little-to-no disciplinary problems from students; (go to the ‘on-level’ classes for disruptive student behaviors in class); 4) padding the ‘rigor’ of the transcript for college entrance assessments; 5) to hope to get college credit (for which many students either don’t make the exam grade of ‘4′ or higher, or the college advances the student to the next level in lieu of awarding college credit.

Note too that to even qualify for the HOPE or Zell Miller scholarship, beginning in 2015 (and rolling forward) students must take an increasing number of ‘higher-level’ CORE courses, including specific numbers of AP courses!. It is already written into the law for the HOPE and Zell Miller scholarships and can be found at the Georgia Finance Commission web site.

Forced APs

November 26th, 2012
11:06 am

Our school has been forcing students into AP courses. Even when students did not elect AP courses and parents protested, the AP class was forced. Complaints to the county were met with statements from the school that no one was forced into an AP class despite statements from several parents to the contrary. I know of at least two students who lost HOPE and aren’t attending college this year due to the AP courses they were forced into their senior year.

AP Teacher

November 26th, 2012
11:19 am

@Attentive Parent– what a load of nonsense. Your critique of Geography as is currently taught is pedantic at best. Go to AP Central and see whether AP Human Geography follows his five environmental systems, from Microsystems to Chronosystems. Sure,we teach about culture, but in context of how cultural traits exist geographically, how they diffuse, and to what scale. Scale is an important aspect of how geographers interpret the world. The theme that runs through APHG is globalization, and if you read Harm de Blij (arguably the foremost living expert on human geography), you will find it is NOT a form of anthropology. Interestingly enough, I also teach Psychology, and understand Uri Bronfenbrenner ( a follower of Vygotsky) never envisaged the five environmental systems being a framework for a course in geography. The wonderful thing about human geography is its complex relationship with all the social sciences, which can also make it one of the more challenging courses to take, whether in the 9th or 12th grade. I do not water down the course or teach the test either. I get a lot of flak from parents concerned with HOPE gpa and such, but since the course has been first offered in 2001, I have never stopped educating students and parents that this is a college-level course, period.

handyjo

November 26th, 2012
11:33 am

Here in Middle Tennessee, there is a huge push for students to take AP. At our HS, freshman were not allowed to take AP until last year when Human Geography was introduced. For years, sophomores were only allowed to take one AP class. The typical route was for sophomores to take AP European History rather than a standard World History course. (This has always stumped me because Euro is a really difficult course that could scare off a lot of students. However, the course is taught by a teacher who is a favorite among students… thus, the trend continues.) Psychology and US History have the biggest demand, with Psych being a favorite for seniors.

My two sons had very different AP interest levels. The older son took 2 AP courses and entered college with 3 credits hours. The younger son took 9 AP courses and entered college with 30 credit hours. The older son earned a partial scholarship to an in-state public college and will graduate in May (4 years) with a double major and already has a job offer. The younger son earned a full scholarship to an out-of-state public college and can earn his BA in 3 years.

So is it worth it to take AP? It depends on the student. I admit that I have very mixed feelings about AP. Some students just are not ready for that level of intensity during high school. Even high achievers don’t always win. Their high school GPAs may take a hit as a result of tougher course work, pulling down their class ranks. A few years ago, a former high achieving HS student told me that she wished she hadn’t taken so many AP classes because when she got to college she had no “easy” (entry level) classes to help in her GPA calculation. There is no denying the push for AP by the school administration. When 25% of Newsweek’s “Best Schools” score is based solely on the number of students participating in AP, the administration is going to play the game.

retired AP teacher

November 26th, 2012
11:39 am

Considering how watered down regular courses have become so that no child would be left behind, the more challenging the AP classes, the merrier.

vince

November 26th, 2012
11:52 am

My daughters have taken plenty of AP classes in their Gwinnett public school. In most cases, I felt the quality of teaching did not match the rigor of the course. The courses are very difficult and help weed out many students from earning whats left of the HOPE.

On the other hand, my daughters have gone on to college and have done very well with one completing college with a 4.0 average. She reported that many of the courses were “easier than the AP courses she took in high school.”

…so I guess the system works.

Attentive Parent/Invisible Serfs Collar

November 26th, 2012
12:10 pm

AP Teacher-So you are saying it is Systems Thinking but not formally BEST? Sort of a mix along with Vygotsky and maybe Herman Daly’s views of Ecosystems?

I am familiar with Vygotsky as well and recognize Urie developed BEST as a metaphor for the effect of social interactions and the environment in developing culture.

It’s not the AP course most parents think it is which I believe you are corroborating and it does teach people as embedded in subsystems withing broader systems. Again my point.

That’s Vygotsky’s socio-cultural theory.

I am not asking you to weaken it. I tend to be one of the least troublesome parents you will ever meet. I just recognize what I am dealing with.

The language the C3 framework used that corresponds to what you are describing is “comprehending that our world is composed of ecosystems at multiple scales interacting in complex webs of inter-relationships within nature and between nature and societies.”

It may not be using Urie’s precise Nomenclature but BEST is a huge influence now on the Common Core classroom implementation and pedagogy generally in the 21st century. It’s also Peter Senge’s Systems Thinking which is why David Coleman being a speaker was an embrace that Systems Thinking and Sustainability are important to the classroom implementation.

It is not a course about various countries, their characteristics, and what is located where.