AP Tough on Kids (Is That What It's Really For)?

Eye-opening video from NY Times on AP and its pressure on students.

Isn't AP supposed to get kids working hard and ready for college?

Or is it a rush through too much content that no student can really master?

It saves you money if you make a 4 or 5 on the test and you can skip some college classes.

Or is it a rush to have the perfect college application?

Is it a money machine?

Have we been duped?

This video is a little short and a little short-sighted. You could make a video of the opposite side as well. AP has real faults but yes, it does pace out at a college rate. There are colleges that don't want an SAT or ACT score but I've never heard of one that doesn't give a higher ranking if you took AP.

I don't believe any high school here expects any "signed contract" as in the video. Some say you have to take the test but don't enforce it. (It does cost $83 and the free/reduced reduction isn't that much lower so it's not possible to make a kid take it who doesn't have the money to do so.)

It is one of those "it's here but does it really work and what else do we have" problems.


hschinske said…
I thought Washington had a grant that allowed students on free/reduced lunch to take AP tests for $5 a throw. See http://www.k12.wa.us/AdvancedPlacement/pubdocs/January2010APTestFee.pdf -- "The AP Fee Reduction is a collaborative process. In 2010, the fee per examination will be $86. Our application requested that the total student fee be reduced through a series of waivers. The College Board will waive $22 of the fee. Each school must waive the $8 it receives for the May 2010 examination administration. The federal grant managed by the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) will propose to pay $51 of the fee. If approved, this will leave the student responsibility for each examination at $5 per exam." Has that gone away?

Helen Schinske
dj said…
Personally I don't consider AP courses college-equivalent courses, and neither did the university that I attended (it gave no credit for AP courses). I agree that universities look to see if you have taken the most rigorous courses offered by your high school, and that a failure to take those courses will disadvantage or ding you at selective universities, but I have always thought it a misrepresentation that AP classes are somehow university-course equivalent.

Personally, I saw no difference between the AP courses and honors courses that I took in high school.
Helen, that must be new because it wasn't the case a few years back. Good news and thanks for posting it.
dan dempsey said…
At Harvey Mudd College the only way a frosh skips over Calculus I is to score a 5 on the BC Calculus test and then take a Harvey Mudd math placement exam. The AB AP Calculus is not the equivalent of a major university Calculus experience.

I am sure Mudd loves to see good grades in AP courses but as to giving college credit not likely at Harvey Mudd.
seattle said…
I wish kids could take AP courses when and if they are truly ready for them and need the challenge. I fear that AP has become the norm. It has become what is expected of HS students. They are what kids "have to do" to be competetive on their college admission application.

Well, not all HS kids, even very bright ones, are ready for college level work in HS. But if their school offers the classes and they don't take them it can really hurt them in the college application process.

It puts a lot of undue pressure and stress on kids. Ant that's a shame.
Unknown said…
I can confirm that in SPS at least that students on free and reduced lunch schedules only pay $5 per exam.

AP courses just replace the survey courses and intro courses that many schools require. Only the most elite schools won't take the exams and the majority of colleges I have dealt with in Washington State will take them at some level. This is all about adding value for our students. If a student can skip even one course in college then they can take one more course in their major instead of the weeder courses.
Unknown said…
As I remember, UW gave credit for good scores on language, math, and English. The latter saved me from freshman composition, and math let me skip ahead in calculus. I believe that I couldn't skip ahead in physics even though I had a good score. That was probably for the best, since physics at the U was far different than high school.

I didn't exactly save money on my tuition, since I still spent four years there, but I did get to take some other interesting classes. On the whole, I think it was a good transition into college-level work. I also agree that it shouldn't be necessary.

BullDogger said…
"Well, not all HS kids, even very bright ones, are ready for college level work in HS. But if their school offers the classes and they don't take them it can really hurt them in the college application process."

And some kids are ready or close enough that the extra discipline required to do well is a good experience. I've listened to many college admin pitches this year and AP is viewed more positively than even honors (no honors std in washington). These kids are helped at college admission time because they took on a challenge and succeeded. Good for them!

Using AP course count as a metric of HS school success is "over the top" in my view. But letting kids self select into the classes, get some experience with hard work and maybe have the college credit carrot out there is mostly positive.

Another benefit to getting college credit is many schools will prioritize course selection by your credits earned. If you have 6 credits where most freshman have zero that 11am english 101 class may be easier to get into.
Maureen said…
My kid is in AP Human Geography at RHS and no way is it a college level class. The assignments are just to read the book and fill out preset reading guides. Quizzes are based on the guides. He is rarely required to synthesize the information he is absorbing.

One of his friends is taking the same class with a different teacher and is drowning in writing assignments, so part of the problem, as I see it, is that there is no consistency between the different classes.

I wonder how many RHS kids took the AP exam last year and how they scored? (More passes than when 50% of the kids took AP Euro?) I asked one of the counselors that at the 10th grade curriculum night and she seemed puzzled that requiring AP HG would have an impact on who takes AP exams--she said that would be an interesting thing to find out (I thought that was the whole point!).
hschinske said…
The grant for $5 tests has been around since at least 2003, from what I can find on archived info pages from SPS (e.g., http://web.archive.org/web/20040203095241/http://www.k12.wa.us/AdvancedPlacement/pubdocs/PUBLICSCH2004FeeReduction.DOC).

Helen Schinske
Unknown said…
The concerns identified by earlier posters about AP courses are among the reasons that many students opt for the IB program instead. There's more independent thinking in IB, and a much stronger use of original source texts than in AP, which some students prefer. And there is no parallel in the AP program for the independent scholarship that is required in order to receive an IB diploma. (Of course, not all students who take IB classes opt to meet the diploma requirements, so not all IB students do that independent research work.)

It's great to have different options to consider. Including the option of skipping these classes all together.
SolvayGirl said…
But now kids won't have different options to consider, unless they're lucky enough to nab one of the option spots at their out of neighborhood school. Many kids in the southend chose the IB programs at Ingraham and Sealth. That won't be as attainable now.
dan dempsey said…
In regard to AP in Federal way the following was said by Charlie Hoff:
“The Advanced Placement passage rate is higher than the national average.” Again, this is true. What was not said was that the passage rate was approximately 25%! Educators have glommed onto the idea that they can impress the public with a discussion of “how many are taking AP courses,’ not how many are passing AP tests. As these are supposed to be “College Level” courses one would expect that passage of the AP test would be an indication of ability to “Pass a College Level Course,” wouldn’t it? I have tried to get, on several occasions, a correlation between report card grades and AP test grades. The district has refused to divulge this. If the correlation were positive I am sure that this would be proudly proclaimed.

MGJ wants more kids in AP classes as to percentage of students passing the AP tests that is an entirely different matter.

Is this reassuring that FedWay does not want to divulge any correlation between AP course grades and AP test scores?

About as reassuring as Seattle's refusal to release PSAT results from 2008.

I can hardly wait for End of Course testing to begin in Washington schools. Hopefully this will disclose something about what kids actually know. Now the administrators seem intent on hiding such information.
Jet City mom said…
My younger daughter took 4 AP classes, but for three of them, she HAD to take the tests, even though we did not want her to, it was required for the class.

( She didn't always test well, the point of taking the class was for the challenge not the credit, even though we are not FRL it is a lot of money & College Board did not give accomodations although they did later for SAT - Nathan Hale PTA has in the past subsidized AP tests for all students, but that is up to each PTA)

I also think that other courses can be just as, if not more challenging and deeper, than AP.

She had a Marine Biology class at Garfield for instance that was easily college level from my observation.
Depending on subject and instructor, an honors class can be very challenging- without taking AP.

It is also well known that AP courses are uneven, and some are more rigourous than others, just given the subject matter, although I also don't think we need to make high school into college for all students.

My daughter who attended private, didn't have any AP, they weren't offered- but still quite rigourous coursework, for example virtually all students attend a 4-year college within 5 years of graduation ( many take a gap year or three), including many in each class who go to the most competitive universities.

Although her course work in high school was intensive, she did remark after attending Reed College , that other students who had taken AP seemed perhaps better prepared for the breadth of coursework, as well as the depth.

( Reed also rarely grants AP credit, or suggests that students place out of a intro course-
Generally you need to attend an instate public college to receive credit, but that can be a time & money saver for those student who chose to do so-
Still, if you are able to receive a great deal of AP credit from your AP tests & it is not required to take the class, in order to take the test, you may not be best served by attending an instate public university)

AP at least has a structure in place, unlike " honors" designation. IB is also rigorous, but we liked that AP could be more easily taken by course, rather than program, at least the way it was presented to us.
zb said…
"Many kids in the southend chose the IB programs at Ingraham and Sealth. That won't be as attainable now."

Why will the IB program at Ingraham would be *less* attainable to kids in the south end now that the distance tiebreaker is gone? Spots are still available on a space available basis, sans the distance tiebreaker. If spots aren't going to be available at Ingraham now, I can't imagine they would have been much more available under the old plan.

I guess one could imagine that the shuffling of borders sending kids who now go to Ballard to Ingraham could have an effect.
zb said…
I've never been fond of classes that are designated "AP." Back in the day, my college-prep, selective high school didn't offer any "AP" classes (except a one semester course for the English AP, which concentrated on poetry analysis back then). Sometimes, after taking a rigorous class (Calculus, Biology, American History, Foreign languages) people would people would take the AP exam.

And, my college also didn't accept AP classes for college credit.
SolvayGirl said…
ZB, yes, I believe that the new assignment plan will make it more difficult for kids to get into schools that had been historically under enrolled. This is especially true with Sealth. The 10% hold-out for out-of-are kids doesn't amount to a whole lot of kids (25-30) and feasibly schools could fill up. I believe Franklin will definitely fill (though it does not offer IB) since it will be taking most of the kids normally assigned to Cleveland.
Maureen, your comments are interesting because Mr. Vance heard these complaints last year. Apparently nothing has changed. You might want to remind him that parents still don't like the differences in the same class.

You DO NOT have to take an AP class to take the test. It would take a lot of work to get ready on your own but lots of kids do it.
hschinske said…
The Human Geography test is supposed to be one of the easiest, and the course material is not uncommonly taught elsewhere (I have heard that Mr. Katz says a lot of it is not so very different from what he taught in 8th-grade social studies at Washington, though I suppose he can go deeper with older students). I wouldn't be at all surprised if there were students out there who could pass it without taking that exact course.

Helen Schinske
Lynne Cohee said…
Maureen, I think one of last fall's Rider Records gave some information about the test scores of the RHS students who took the AP Human Geography last spring. My memory is that they were fairly positive. I think Brian Vance might have also talked about it at curriculum night.
Maureen said…
LynnC, Thanks, I found it (Sept Record):

RHS Social Studies teachers are proud to share that our first year of the 10th grade AP Human Geography course was a great success. Students were talking about, writing about, and filming important issues in the world around them, near and far. ―235 students took the test with an average score of 3.234 (162 students scoring a 3 or higher). That is worth a major kudos to the staff and the students,‖ said Principal Brian Vance.

So if I knew how many took the AP Euro exam (and their average score) I could answer my own question.

Helen, Katz is the teacher who is 'drowning' our friend--it sounds like he is doing his best to teach it as a college level course. I wish my kid's teacher would do the same. (My kid does not share my opinion on this!) I wonder if Brian Vance has broken down the test scores by which teacher the kids had?
hschinske said…
Well, the drown-'em-in-work teacher is not always the one to pick, but from my daughter's experience of Katz, he's probably not assigning an inordinately high amount of work (unlike the similarly-named Mr. Schmitz, my other daughter's 8th-grade social studies teacher). But this is only Mr. K's second year teaching high school, so he may still be adjusting appropriate expectations, dunno.

Helen Schinske
Dorothy Neville said…
Maureen. Vance gave a little powerpoint presentation at a PTSA meeting in the Fall and I blew holes in his conclusions. Full of BS, really. The analysis stunk. One of the outcomes they wanted was kids feeling more confident in taking another AP course. Well, look at the poll done at the end of the year. About half felt such confidence. Well, historically, about 50% of incoming 10th graders felt confident enough to sign up for a Truly Rigorous Bear of an AP course, AP Euro. So the fact that at the end of 10th grade, about half the class feels like they could take another AP course? Does anyone think that shows success?

I also very much expressed my disappointment in the lack of rigor and the total lameness of my son's experience. He had the "read the chapters, do the worksheets on the key terms" sort of teacher. Brian excused that saying that it was soooo hard to come up with the new curriculum, we needed to cut them some slack. I called foul. What really got me was that at the Spring 2008 PTSA meeting where they presented the course they talked about all sorts of wonderful things they were going to do, all sorts of interaction with World Something Council and on and on. The teachers *knew* it would be a lot of hard work for them. The teachers *embraced* the extra work they were going to do to collaborate and make it great. And Magidman, my son's teacher, was one of those present at that meeting and one of those promising enthusiastic collaboration and an excellent course. She lied. Both she and Vance broke a promise to the kids and the parents.

Vance then said he had some responsibility in that, that it was his job to ensure the teacher quality.
So, in October, he knew that last year's AP HG classes were uneven. He said it was his responsibility as educational leader to fix that. A parent at the meeting told me her child had Magidman this year and it was the same thing.
Maureen said…
Helen, I didn't mean to imply he was giving too much work, I think some 15 year olds SHOULD be expected to be drowning in a college level course--especially if they choose not to attend the tutoring sessions and tend to start their papers the day before they are due! The kid I'm thinking of is strong in math and science and art and never would have volunteered for AP Social Studies. Being 15, I think he may not be reacting in the most mature way. I'm hoping it won't totally mess up his chances at a decent college. Where he can take REAL college social studies classes when he is more mature.

Dorothy, do you know whether a kid signs up for LA/SS block as opposed to taking the classes separately seems to affect the rigor? My kid is in a block (not Magidman), so when APHG is covering 'borders' he gets assigned little papers on mental borders he has faced in his life, whereas Katz assigns research papers on real geographical/political borders (and the LA teacher assigns additional papers that are relevant to his/her own class).

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