Friday, December 23, 2005

AP Courses

Joanne (see blogroll at left) links to a story stating that the College Board will soon expect high school teachers of AP (advanced placement) courses to prove that they are offering college-level work. Apparently there are concerns that too many students are being offered AP courses that are AP in name only--their content has been watered down. According to the article she linked to:

Teachers and administrators will have to perform annual self-audits and submit
materials, including syllabi, to the College Board.

I think filling in a matrix showing how many people take a class, how many take the AP exam, and what scores they get should be sufficient. But at my school, parents have been pushing to "grant greater access" to AP courses. If you have more "not quite AP" students taking the classes you'd expect lower grades on the AP exam. But that could look to the College Board that you're watering down the curriculum.

But self-audits and syllabi? Those seem fairly easy to fudge as well. What's the solution for ensuring that AP courses, for which students can get college credit, are genuinely rigorous?


Kimberly Lloyd said...

Even in my day a thousand (well, ten) years ago students took certain AP classes just to have it on their transcript with no intention of even attempting the exam.

At my high school, all of my AP classes were rigorous except one, French. I remember the teacher announcing at the end of December that only those students who planned on taking the AP exam needed to show up after the New Year. The course was so stupid that 50% of the students stopped showing up, knowing they didn't know anything and didn't want to have to cram for four months. I showed up, and the teacher looked at me, puzzled, and repeated his instructions. I replied, also puzzled, that I did intend on taking the AP. My puzzlement came from the fact that I had an A average, so why would he think I wouldn't take the AP exam. His reply: Well, I hadn't paid the $2000 to go on a school trip to France, so clearly I wasn't serious about the language. It never occurred to him that a non-rich student even made it to the AP track. To this day a thousand (well, ten) years later, I'm still angry over what he said to me.

I guess my long, unfocused point is that AP courses seem to be more about prestige and showing off than academics. Some schools like Amherst College won't even give credit for AP exams anymore since the impression is that they're not equivalent to college work anymore.

Darren said...

I know that some schools give an extra grade point to AP courses, so that's what's driving many students to take watered-down courses.

Easier solution? Stop granting weighted grades! Let the College Board keep its own testing standards high, and students who score 3 or above on the AP test can get college credits. Those who don't? No credit.

I don't think the AP courses, especially the watered-down ones, are about prestige. They're about GPA. My 2 cents.

Darren said...

Oh, and the $2000 trip to France comment? Your teacher was a putz.

Darren said...

Probably still is.

Anonymous said...

I don't understand why the College Board has any interest in the difficulty level of AP courses. They have the final say -- the test. I can't imagine why anyone would water down the curriculum in an AP course, but assuming they do, their student's lack of participation in the test and/or failure rate would speak for itself. A school that consistently inflates GPAs will reveal itself eventually, weighted or not.

As an AP teacher, I am insulted to think that the College Board would need my syllabus -- like they would actually read it. Th e AP test is one of the few standardized measures that actually does a good job of indicating mastery of the subject. There is no further need.


Darren said...

Dan, the AP "reputation" is watered down along with the curriculum where so-called AP courses are offered that are not of AP quality. Looks good on a kid's transcript, and seniors won't have AP test results until long after they've been accepted to colleges--so AP wants a little more say over their brand name.

That's how I read it.