Saturday, February 13, 2010

Do more AP classes = more Learning?

Charlie Hoff writes:

Recently the College Board released some important information on the success, and failures of the Advanced Placement exams. Advanced Placement (AP) exams are supposed to be “College Level” courses offered in high schools and they are sponsored by College Board.

Some comments that I have collected, mostly from Washington writers are as follows:

“Of the 2009 graduating class (Washington), 16 percent of all students scored a 3 or higher on the five-point scale”

“Show up for class. Don't be late. Do the work. Push yourself. Apply for internships. Apply to college. Never stop learning.”

“We must also expect more from our local school districts.”

“A few years ago they (College Board) started to look at what schools were calling an AP course, and making schools submit syllabi, etc. But if these scores don’t start to improve, one has to wonder what is going on in the classroom. The people who should really be paying attention, however, aren’t at the College Board. It’s students and parents that should really take notice.”

Locally we learned that the International Baccalaureate program, now 10 years old in Federal Way has moved from 6 graduates a year to only 36 in 10 years!

What we hear from the school district is the number taking AP or IB courses. I was snookered into thinking that this was an indication of increased achievement for many years. until I learned that taking the course isn’t really an indication of any advancing achievement.
Taking the exam and passing it with a college acceptable score is. Here we don’t do so well.

The School District will gleefully tell you that over 600 kids are taking an IB course, but they don’t tell you that most are not taking the test and passing it! As suggested in one of the quotes above, school districts have taken to “Labeling” courses as “IB” or “AP” that are not preparing kids for the exams. Doesn’t it sound good? Snookered me for several years.

What’s the problem here? Successful IB students, and their parents, will tell you that this level of learning takes some significant time and thinking commitments. Perhaps there is not a lot of time for “Hanging out,” MySpace, or any other distractions. In fact some parents have suggested they would not want their kids to do this again!

What are we expecting from our schools if we “Say” we want increased rigor, but we want this without increased study efforts? Are we still looking for the magic bullet that will allow this to be done in a “Multitasking” environment?

A local college admissions official tells us that when he asks Washington applicants “What did you learn in school that caused you to more deeply investigate this topic for your own benefit?” He draws a blank from some otherwise very qualified applicants and this usually eliminates them from consideration for admission!

Is this a matter of “Reduced Expectations?” I think so! Both by schools that continue to give passing report card grades to those who cannot pass the AP or IB exams, in many cases to appease the students or parent, and parents who are not being truthful about their expectations for their children.

A few years ago there was a national poll of students and parents about what was the most desirable attribute of a school. Both groups wanted “Satisfaction!” Often this isn’t closely related to “Rigor!”

What do you suppose a poll like this would say about Asian parents, parents in Korea, Japan, India, Singapore, or Taiwan?

I will close with Robertson Davies famous quote, I believe still very valid, about education.

"Education is hard work, not play, and its rewards are a seriously informed , wide ranging attitude towards real life, and the beginning of a great adventure."


Anonymous said...

dan dempsey said...

interesting links above.