Sunday, July 22, 2007

College Board to Police AP listings

Following up on the larger discussion of what a baseline curriculum would look like for a Seattle schools comprehensive high school, I saw this article about AP classes in the NY Times. The company that runs AP, College Board, is doing an audit of classes because of schools that invent AP classes (AP Ceramics?).

From the article:

“Schools just slap AP on courses to tag them as high-level, even when there’s no Advanced Placement exam in the subject,” Mr. Poch said. “It was getting to be like Kleenex or Xerox.”

But now, for the first time, the College Board is creating a list of classes each school is authorized to call AP and reviewing the syllabuses for those classes. The list, expected in November, is both an effort to protect the College Board brand and an attempt to ensure that Advanced Placement classes cover what college freshmen learn, so colleges can safely award credit to students who do well on AP exams."

A little background on AP (Advanced Placement):

"Developed 50 years ago for gifted students in elite high schools, the Advanced Placement program now exists in almost two-thirds of American high schools. In May, about 1.5 million students took 2.5 million Advanced Placement exams, hoping to earn college credit and impress college admissions offices, which often give applicants extra points on the transcript."

"As APs have spread, it has become clear that the name is no guarantee of rigor; an AP course at a wealthy suburban high school may be far more ambitious than one at a poor rural school. And in many struggling high schools, nearly all the students in Advanced Placement classes fail the exam."

"The exams given each May, for $83 apiece, are graded on a scale of 1 to 5, with scores of 3 and up considered passing. But some colleges grant credit only for a 4 or a 5." "The Advanced Placement program is an odd hybrid of exam and coursework. Any student can take any exam, without taking an AP class. And some high schools have dropped AP classes, safe in knowing their students will still do well on AP exams." "Conversely, students who take AP classes need not take the AP exam. Some skip the exams because they know they will fail; others never planned to take the exam, enrolling in the class mostly to look good in the college admissions process."

I'm posting this because (1) many people do not seem to know what AP is and why it is important in a discussion of graduating students to be college-ready and (2) what is and isn't happening in Seattle schools with AP.

So why is it important? One, college admissions officers (look at any college admissions webpage) say they look for rigor and most times that comes in the form of AP or Honors classes. Two, studies have shown that students that attempt an AP class do better in college. Students who take an AP class and pass it do even better in college. Students who take an AP class AND pass the test do even better. This is the basis for why Bellevue School district is pushing every high school student to attempt an AP class. It just seems to be a good preparation for what students will get in college (as do taking Running Start classes).

Okay, so to review. You do NOT have to take an AP class to take an AP test. However, unless you are really getting rigorous coursework in a small class setting (a la Lakeside), it's going to be much more difficult for you to pass the test.

Every single high school in our district has its own AP rules. Meaning, some schools (Hale) don't like AP and are trying to phase it out. Some, like Roosevelt, have many AP courses but their LA department doesn't like it and so no AP English Lit or Language (two of the most popular AP courses in the country; the most popular is AP US History). Some say you have to have a certain grade point average to take it and others are open to any student who wants the challenge. Many say that a student HAS to take the AP test in order to take the AP class. (I think this is because AP requires special teacher training to teach the class.) However, I challenged this notion at Hale because the test costs $83. I asked if there were scholarships or a district way to defray this cost. They never gave me a straight answer ("possibly"). Well, think about it. Can a school really offer a class that has a cost to its outcome and not have some sort of free/reduced lunch aspect to it? This would virtually cut out low-income families and their students from enrolling.

The district, as usual with any topic about advanced learning, does not want to talk about this. But, again, if we are being asked to have our school choices narrowed then the district has to do its part in making sure that all students have options available to them in an equitable fashion.


Anonymous said...

Parents can (and should) absolutely challenge the idea that student must take the AP test to be in an AP class.

I was told that by a Garfield counselor, raised an objection to the principal, who had the legal department confirm that it is unlawful to put that limitation on taking an SPS class.

It is also unlawful for AP teacher to adjust a student's grade based upon how they do on the test

Anonymous said...

Melissa -Students that qualify for free/ reduced lunch pay $5 per AP exam. This is not only true for Seattle high schools, but every high school in Washington state. This is significantly less than $83. All SPS high schools know this.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Interesting, Anonymous, that Hale didn't tell me that when I asked. You have to wonder why that is if what you say is common knowledge.

Anonymous said...


I have no clue as to Hale's claiming no knowledge of the fee reduction. But OSPI does not keep this information to themselves.


Anonymous said...

Washington gets a federal grant that mandates that all FRL students who take either AP tests or any tests associated with obtaining an IB diploma for $5 per exam. I know because I asked if the reduced fee also applied to IB exams and Irene Stewart forwarded a response from the legal office and the then Advanced Learning Manager Colleen Stump saying that the two were the same for the purposes of the grant.

If Hale is not providing this info, they are either ignorant because they don't offer much AP or deliberately trying to discourage taking AP because it does not fit with the philosphy they have adopted. Either way, there is no excuse for not providing this info.

Anonymous said...

anon at 2:51

Take the class but don't take the test? Why?

Life has scores of tests everyday - plant the corn or the rice on time, or starve. stop at the stop sign on time, or kill / main someone...

Why not take the test? Because we live in an affulent culture where we've allowed a huge percentage of the population to delude themselves into this nonsense of I-don't-have-the-math-gene / I-can't-take-tests?

I want everyone to take AP Calculus - they have to be ready, and, they should take the test. And, if they don't pass the test, passing the course is just nonsense.

So, fellow citizen and taxpayer, it is really a great use of taxpayer money to have lawyers look into ... some nonsense right?

By the way, have you figured out the costs of your alternatives to AP Classes and AP exams?

We all know that a large part of what tests measure is the ability to pass tests ... your alternatives cost what and are paid for how?

anon on mon.

Anonymous said...

anon on mon at 12:01 PM:

Lots of students want the rigor of the class, but as passing the test has decreased value at the college level, so they opt out of taking the test.

Keep in mind that for many families, paying $83 per exam is not a viable financial option. The $5 reduced fee only applies to those who are FRL elligable, which is a very low amount.

Your grade in an SPS class should be dependent upon the work you do in that SPS class, including exams adminstered in that class. There is no place for tying taking a private entitie test to a grade in an SPS class.

This is not nonsence for a lot of families, including mine.

Anonymous said...

Ingraham HS doesn't have AP. It has IB instead.

Anonymous said...

anon at 2:57

83 bucks for a test and you might get out of a semester or quarter of a college level class = a lot of saved money.

"AP" means Advanced Placement, and the test has been developed / administered by the same people who administer the SAT for decades.

In my not humble opinion, for AP Calculus, the grading of an AP class should be structured such that, if a student can not get more than 60% on tests the student should not pass the class, and those tests should mimic the AP tests as much as possible.

I grew up on welfare - one of the best ways we can support our kids is to make sure that they are prepared to compete, that they can compete, and that they do compete.

Anonymous said...

Actually, many colleges no longer give credit for passing AP tests.

Anonymous said...

Anon 5:36 PM, if your not so humble opinion is that a student must take and pass the College Board exam to recieve a grade, and yet that is not something that the district can legally do, what is the point of debating it?

Anonymous said...

This site is sure getting ugly. It was very respectful for a long time, but lately I notict a lot of insulting. It is OK to disagree. But please, the point of a blog IS to share opinions, not to tear apart the ones that we dont agree with. It makes people not want to participate, really.

Melissa Westbrook said...

I think a lot of colleges still give credit but you have to score higher (a 4 or 5 on a 1-5 scale) to get credit. The money savings is great if it happens but the ability to be better prepared for college level work is invaluable.

Jet City mom said...

dis is what I know re Ap
At some point Hale PTA possibly subsidized the tests- because they were more like $30.
Some schools true don't give credit- my older Ds college discourages students from using tests for credits, except for "electives" certainly not to place out of a subject and not to reduce courses taken.
However- not every school is so restrictive.
Other students benefit quite a bit from saving time and money by taking AP classes/tests in high school & using those scores to fulfill college graduation requirements.
My younger daughter took an AP class, because her teacher the previous year recommended she do so.
She did not take the test- she wasnt going to use it for college credit, so there was no reason to.
However she learned a lot and worked very hard in that class.
The next year, she took another AP class, still not going to use test for college credit, but now told it is a must to take the test.
She needed to take that class, she was in the honors class, and it was moving much too slow, however- the test is quite pricey, and since we have more than $30,000 for a family of three, not on FRL so we had to pay $83 for the test.
something doesn't quite ring right.
appropriate class- required fee for testing.

Anonymous said...

Class of 75-
Send email to Phil Brockman, coping whomever at Hale told you that your daughter was required to take the test to be in the class and Marnie Campbell. Tell him that you now know that this practice was not lawful, and that you want to be reimbursed for the cost of having your D unecessarily take a test. I bet you will get a check in short order.

Melissa Westbrook said...

I was listening to UW President Emmert today on KUOW and he was asked what students in high school need to get into the increasingly competitive UW. (By the way, they are getting bigger at Bothell and are likely to open another campus.)

He said that UW had changed their admission model which used to be point based (and easier for admissions officer) to a more holistic model. He said that they look for "AP, Advanced Placement" and whether kids had accessed what was available. Meaning, as he said, if the school offered 2 AP and the kid took them it meant as much as a kid whose school had 20 AP courses and a kid took 2. He also mentioned leadership, music/arts, jobs, newspaper, and athletics as other types of things they look for in well-rounded students.