Saturday, July 20, 2013

Advanced Placement Classes and Tests

I teach statistics.  Not AP statistics, just regular ole statistics.  Mine is one of the few schools I know of where a non-AP statistics class is taught.

I teach the AP statistics content, however.  If I were to teach ordinary stats content as defined under California's 1997 math standards (I've seen too many versions of Common Core standards to know yet what I'm supposed to teach!), the course wouldn't take a semester.  In fact, under California's standardized testing regime, most of the non-AP standards are assessed on Algebra 2 students--even though this statistics material isn't part of the Algebra 2 standards!

It's a very goofed-up system.

As I said, I teach the AP content.  No, I don't teach it to the detail or rigor required of an AP course, but I teach the content (and then some).  I've had students email me from college and tell me they didn't learn anything in their college stats classes because they'd learned all the material in my class.  It's rewarding to hear that.

I tell my students that if they're doing well in class, and if they're willing to put in a little bit of additional effort, they could do well on the AP test.  I don't recall how many students I had who took the AP Stats test this year, but I could remember 3 by name.  I haven't heard from one of them but the other two both scored 4's.  I'm fairly pleased.

That's a long introduction to this story in the major Sacramento newspaper:
Performance on AP tests has improved locally even as more students take them. About 62 percent of AP tests in the region featured scores high enough to earn college credit last year, up from 60 percent in 2010 and 56 percent in 2005, state figures show...

Denise Pope, a senior lecturer at the Stanford University Graduate School of Education, recently conducted a review into the value of AP classes. She said the rise in students taking the classes may not be as positive as many parents and administrators hope.

"There is really not clear research on what you get out of an AP course," she said. "Will you do better in college, save money or get out of certain classes and perform better in classes? There is not good data"...

While many universities grant college credit to students who score at least a 3 out of 5, top private schools have stricter criteria and typically require a 4 or 5 depending on the subject.

Charles Cole, senior associate director of admissions and outreach at California State University, Sacramento, said students who come into college with AP credits have a clear advantage. About 1,500 of the school's 3,100 freshmen had AP credit upon admission last year, up 17 percent from 2011, he said.
This ties in tangentially with this post of mine from 2 1/2 years ago.

Read more here:


momof4 said...

The original intent of AP classes was to offer college-level classes for those who had already succeeded in the top HS classes in those subjects. My older kids' very good HS had -and still did, the last I checked- honors prereqs for all AP classes (honors chem for AP chem, honors world for AP Euro etc), so those classes were really at the level expected at competitive colleges and most kids taking them had 4-5s on the exams. In far too many schools, the AP label is an outright lie. A regular commenter on the WaPo ed page says that Prince George's County (MD) requires an AP class for graduation, so his AP English classes are filled with kids whose reading ability is 5th-7th-grade or less and whose writing ability is worse. That's academic fraud and it hurts those who are prepared for real APs and aren't getting them. Of course, part of the AP push is political, because the stronger and more motivated students tend to be from the wrong racial/ethnic groups.

The ed world is apparently incapable of understanding that correlation is NOT a synonym for causation. Before the "AP for all" push, there was Latin, debate, modern foreign languages, honors classes, 8th-grade algebra etc. The fact that kids taking such classes did better on various measures was NOT because of the class material, but because when only the most able, prepared and motivated kids took those classes, the classes served as proxy variables for identifying such kids. Sticking 5th-grade readers in AP classes not only hurts the kids who belong there, it hurts the weak students who should be getting help at their level.

I'm all for real AP classes. My kids all had enough AP credits to start college as full sophomores. The APs allowed them to bypass the usual freshman distribution requirements and they registered as sophomores so had a better chance to get into the classes they wanted. One graduated a year early, one triple-majored and one did three semesters of internships and three semesters as a TA. (the other went into a specialized program)

PeggyU said...

Our daughter got a 5 on an AP English exam. I was most pleased, since I was led to understand that this would fulfill the requirement for freshman composition (one less class to pay for is always nice!). When she transferred from Washington to Sac State (different accreditation region), unfortunately, they did require her to take a composition class. I am not sure why they refused to recognize the AP credit, but since she wanted the diploma, she went ahead and took the class. It was way more English education than she needed, especially since what she received was entirely redundant.

Anonymous said...

With a course like stats, calculus, or science, AP is really about improving college grades. Or at least, it should be.

Any reasonably difficult intro class at any good college will have multiple students from other countries, many of whom have better secondary education than we do. Moreover, many of those classes will have students who are retaking the class because they are trying to raise their GPA, or obtain the "must exceed" grade required for their future classes. Suffice it to say that most high school students will be facing a caliber of competition (and a grading curve) that is very different from high school.

Why does that matter? Simple: most AP students are also type type to go to grad school; people who go to grad school have life success which is determined by their grad school and not by their college; most grad school admissions are MUCH more dependent on GPA than on course selection. The tradeoff for "saving a semester" is rarely worth the costs of lower GPA amortized across a lifetime.

And yes, i know what I'm talking about. I went to a top private school with outstanding students, and got all 5s on my various APs. But as an example: when I was placed in Linear Algebra as an entering freshman, I was out of my depth. Sure, I was smart... but everyone else in the class was ALSO smart and ALSO did well on their APs. And unlike me, they had at least one (and sometimes two) years of "real" college math under their belt.