How Smart Is AP?

<p>A Time article about the growth of AP classes and questions about the integrity of the curriculum.</p>

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<p>All this growth is generally viewed as good news by the many fans of AP programs, who include parents, college-admissions officers and school administrators, as well as politicians on both sides of the aisle, who have called for additional funding to make AP courses more available to low-income students. A large selection of AP courses attended by a broad swath of the student body is widely seen as a measure of excellence for U.S. high schools and figures prominently in formulas that attempt to rank public high schools. The more active the AP program, the higher the rank and, often, the higher the school district's real estate values.</p>

<p>But in some quarters, educators are worried that AP, which was created as a way to give bright high school seniors a taste of college, is turning into something it was never meant to be: a kind of alternative high school curriculum for ambitious students that teaches to the test instead of encouraging the best young minds to think more creatively. And as AP expands, some educators have begun to question the integrity of the programs and ask whether the classes are truly offering students an extra boost or merely giving them filigree for their college applications.</p>

<p>It used to be in NY state that there were 2 "tracks" - one was Regents (for the college-bound) and the other was non-Regents. Then they got rid of that distinciton and said every kid has to pass the Regents tests. So, now it seems like the AP courses have simply replaced the top tier of the tracks. Personally, I have not been thrilled with my sons' AP classes. Yes, they are challenging. But, they don't seem like they have time to be very interesting. Of course, I'm not sure because I haven't actually taken them!</p>

<p>Meanwhile the admissions process is giving out mixed messages.</p>

<p>"Many top universities, including Harvard and M.I.T., have tightened their terms for granting credit or advanced standing on the basis of AP scores. They recognize that an exam-oriented class taken by 10th- and 11th-graders, no matter how bright and hardworking, is generally not the equivalent of a rigorous college course. "If you're being told that this is a college course, you're being told things that are not true," says Douglas Taylor, who chairs the University of Virginia biology department.</p>

<p>But even as some college department heads downgrade the value of APs, admissions officers continue to regard them as a hallmark of the student who enjoys a challenge. "If the school offers APs, we expect that the students are taking them," says Marilee Jones, dean of admissions at M.I.T."</p>

<p>The problem is that, although AP courses ARE NOT like real college courses, they are usually the most challenging courses high school students can take; therefore, adcoms do expect students to take them. This is certainly true at my S's school. There simply is no comparison between the APs and non-AP classes.
Even though Harvard and MIT have raised the bar for granting credit for APs, they still make it possible for students to acquire Advanced Standing (though not all eligible students take up the option). But many LACs do not give credit for APs, or use them solely for placement purposes.</p>

<p>In my school district, preAP and AP courses have replaced GT curriculum. Interesting, because a student doesn't have to be classified as GT to take preAP/AP courses.</p>

<p>my complaint is that APs are a bit too easy. there's a ridiculous after-ceiling to a 5. i can get a 5 on english lang and get 40raw higher than someone else who also got a 5. the calculus AP has gotten significantly easier in the past twenty yrs as more and more people are starting to take them. my teacher gave us an ap calc exam from 1973 and it was 5x harder than the one we had in 2004.</p>

<p>APs are a great idea and the american education system needs them, but i wish they'd make APs harder and more rigorous/intensive. for instance, not to toot my own horn but it shouldn't be possible for good writers like me to read a couple books and get 5s on all the humanities APs. also, they should ditch APs like Bio and Physics B since they don't resemble college classes at all. in america we have a tendency to be a "you can do it too!" society, and when everyone is taking AP classes and scoring terribly on the very easy exams.....i do agree that the integrity of the whole endeavor is undercut.</p>

<p>Congrats justice you have been isolated by intelligence! </p>

<p>IMHO, if you can be above AP at high school level, and you're being overlooked and bored, there's no real reason to worry about you because you obviously have some crazy inextinguishable passion that will be truly awakened through independent study or in college. </p>

<p>we all want intensity in whatever we do, but it isn't possible in academics at the high school level.</p>

<p>AP's is a way to keep the bright kids in HS who otherwise would attend Commumitity College or local college in their senior year. By keeping the kid in the traditional k-12 system, the School System qualifies for "No Child Left Behind, " which means federal $$, a deficit, and a loan payment that the kid will eventually shoulder. </p>

<p>Really don't understand that if a college freshman was able to get 3 courses waived, Would the kid graduate in 5 years? And would the kid forego possible easy A's if he took the normal class? Would money be saved?</p>

<p>I really like AP classes, though from experience, they are nothing like my college courses.</p>

<p>I love the college format: the Professor gives you all he or she can to make you understand a subject, and then its your job to make sense of it.</p>

<p>The AP format: the teacher gives you dittos every day and makes you do a certain amount of work, then gets behind in the calendar or agenda, and thus makes you cram for the month of April.</p>

<p>Its NOT the same experience.</p>

<p>But they should remain.</p>

<p>Our high school is really putting a push on for more kids to take AP's (we offer 18). It used to be that only the "smartest" kids took AP's. But with the school's encouragement and more kids taking the classes there's a definite "dumbing down" going on. Not to imply, AT ALL, that the students aren't intelligent but the bell curve has shifted. The AP euro teacher told us parents as much and said she's going to have to go slower to accomodate some of these kids for whom this is the first AP class ever (like my son). She admitted she teaches strictly for the test.</p>

<p>At my son's HS, a student cannot take AP classes until their junior year and only a handful are really available schedule wise for most students. My son, a junior, is taking AP euro this year. He's one of those kids that's smart and but will do the minimum to pull A's and B's. For the first time, I see him really having to work in a humanities class and I have been trying to help him. I've always loved history so didn't think it would be that hard. Last night he was preparing for the essay portion of a test regarding the 16th century: The centralization of Italy, France and Spain and then the Thirty Years War. That thirty years war was so complicated that there was no easy summary. I read 20 pages of his textbook and then we talked about the questions.</p>

<p>The difference with this class is a couple of things, as I see it. One, is that they may talk about a 1,000 years worth of european history in a week and two is that they don't just give out the answers. One has to actually read and comprehend all the information and then explain it. There is no fact sheet given to memorize and reguritate. It's interesting but very complex. Contrast that with our own American History that is covered in a years time with only 200 + years to study. </p>

<p>I genuinely feel that this is a difficult class and although perhaps not college level, I think that if my son does well in this that he will be on his way to understanding the work required to do well in a college class.</p>

<p>perhaps it is true that AP will never be intense enough for everyone, but nonetheless my general feeling is that the degeneration of the role of AP in a secondary school education has been unfortunate. the day has come that every good student at a public school is expected to take 3 or 4 APs and that the best students feel the need to take 8+. i envision a day when APs are the new SAT IIs and almost every student in every high school takes a couple. more and more people take the same tests, thereby making the curve more and more ridiculous. does it make sense to you that a 110/180 raw is all you need for US History? does it make for ANY test to require you to get only 50-60% correct to receive the max score, especially a test allegedly designed for the best students in the country?</p>

<p>APs no longer have the same esteem that they once had, teachers and school systems teach only for the test (which is a terrible way of teaching), and in general we have a situation that ignores the original purpose of APs, as the Time article points out, namely to provide an experience of higher caliber AFTER the exhaustion of other high school resources.</p>

<p>The problem I see is the generally unchallenging nature of the standard (non-AP) American high school curriculum. There is no other way of explaining why graduates of British, French or German high schools are eligible for Advanced Standing. At least in French schools, there aren't Honors classes, let alone APs.
So the APs, that are supposed to be equivalent to college classes, are really somewhat more challenging classes than non-AP classes. And as more students take them--a development I applaud--, there is a certain dilution of standards. The solution is not to close the doors on students who are less well prepared but to do two things: provide better preparation for more students and support for those who are struggling in APs, and make it easier for high schoolers to take real college classes. There will always be a small number of students in every high school that should be taking APs before their junior or senior year.</p>

<p>I believe, however, that it is misleading to think of APs as similar or equivalent to college courses. The relationship between teacher, students, and resources is very different. College courses do not usually teach to the test--at least to the same extent. Nor do they last a whole year as is the case for the core APs. The high schools that eschew the AP curriculum in favor of their own challenging courses can afford to do so because: a) they know their students will do well on the AP tests anyway and b) they are well known for their excellence by the colleges toward which they steer their students. For students not enrolled in these elite high schools, whether public or private, it is more prudent to take AP classes.</p>

<p>Like the SAT and ACT, APs provide a national yardstick to evaluate students. They are the closest thing we have to a national curriculum, and scores can be compared whether a student is from TX or CT. That, besides the fact that APs are generally the most advanced courses offered at individual schools, is part of their big attraction for colleges (and why they are more portable than Community College credits).</p>

<p>I so far have not been impressed with the AP courses at my kids school. They have gate and honors courses that usually lead to the gate students having AP in US Hist jr year and then a few AP's senior year. The gate and honors courses allowed time for creative thinking, discussion and fostered a love of learning. The 2 AP courses she took last year were so task oriented at getting the material in before the test date. (Which didn't happen in either class) The history teacher stood and lectured and there was no time to go off on any discussion. This might be a flaw of the block system where in the spring you have such a short time between the beginning of the semester and the test date.<br>
She does have AP English right now and it seems to be superior in teaching then the 2 she had last year.
Also as someone else mentioned with Gate you have to be qualified through testing yet AP there is no such requirement. Thus AP US Hist. ends up with 45 kids in each classroom and tons of kids either not taking the test or not passing it.</p>


<p>Scheduling AP-US History for junior year is pretty standard, whether or not there is a Gate program (our school does not). In our school, AP-US History is usually taken in tandem with AP-American Literature. Classes are capped at 30. Students need to have a grade of 80 or better to be admitted; some struggle through the class.
Our school has a year long schedule (slated to move to block scheduling next year). This allows for discussions, which are fine. But the teaching to the test means almost daily quizzes and no time for a research paper. The teacher mentioned a paper after the test is done, but my S will be graduating with seniors a couple of weeks after the test. And of course, for senior who take AP-Euro History and AP-English, there is not enough time for a research paper. That's one of the aspects of the AP curriculum I do not like: it simply does not prepare students well for the amount of independent research and writing they will be doing in college.</p>

<p>AP US History is taught in my kids' school junior year, and it is not just lecturing - there is tons of hands-on, independent research work. I actually got an email from an Ivy professor who asked how my child had gotten so amazingly well prepared for college history courses (how often does a prof seek out a parents' email??). That is the course where they learned how to read a huge mass of primary documents and not only understand them, but understand how they fit into the wider picture AND write about them intelligently. And yes, they had research papers. Same was true of AP English - we were blessed with beyond-spectacular teachers.</p>

<p>On the other hand, some of the other APs were no big deal.</p>

<p>To get into AP US History at our school you just need to do the summer reading and annotate the books. Many kids don't do the reading and copy from a friends book. It is the most common AP taken at our school as like your school there is only AP or regular US Hist. which is why the classes are so large.<br>
Also once they took the test in the early May they still had school till late June yet the teacher seemed to stop teaching. I think we also just got unlucky in having a teacher who had never taught the course before and actually was not asked back this year. They didn't have many quizzes but they did do a fair amount of writing.<br>
Our district is changing the calendar next year so school begins earlier and ends earlier. That way the kids who take AP's in the spring aren't shortchanged before the test. Unfortunately it will be to late for my D.</p>

<p>Hmmm... I'm going to a county wide student council meeting tonight (where I'm leading the discussion- I'm a board member) about the difficulty of APs. </p>

<p>Basically, my stance is that we need to weed out the lower 30% of kids taking the APs and start focusing on the scores and not the numbers enrolled. Our school board has talked of having entrance exams to get into an AP class... I think its a great idea. Right now there are no requirements on who can get into an AP class- as long as your parents support you- you're in. </p>

<p>As for the AP classes being too easy- have you taken any college classes? I can say that I work harder in my AP english/calc/histories/science classes(because of HS busy work) than I do in any of my college classes. Yes, maybe if you went to Yale/Harvard/etc you would work harder, but an AP class is not supposed to be equal to that... I think that the schools that openly accept AP scores of 4/5 are mediocore schools. Also, the whole structure of an AP class is different from a college class and therefore they shouldn't be compared- they can't be compared. For the most part the classes that you can opt out of because of AP credit are useless anyway so I personally don't see why it matters.</p>

<p>Am I the only one that believes that at least some AP classes are hard?? This statement, "The AP format: the teacher gives you dittos every day and makes you do a certain amount of work, then gets behind in the calendar or agenda, and thus makes you cram for the month of April." is not true at my son's school. There are no ditto sheets for his class. There are just tests on the periods of European History. To get into the class the students had to read and review two books over the summer. They, and their parents also had to sign a contract saying that they understood the summer reading assignment and also the requirements for the course. Most kids do not take the AP classes because of their reputation. The kids that do, usually score well. After the AP test in the Spring they still have to take a final.</p>

<p>Maybe all of you (and your kids if you are a parent) are just really, really smart or maybe my son's high school is doing this the right way. Whatever, don't assume that everyone is getting some watered down ap-lite. As for APUSH, perhaps that's different. I mean my kids have heard about the American Indians three different times over the years. American History is just about all they're taught. European History is new and different and it's hard to BS your way through a paper. jmho.</p>

<p>Kathiep, I'm on your side - see my post above (#16).</p>