Monday, May 5, 2014

The So-Called Advanced Placement Student at the University or What Is the Value of AP Courses and Tests Anyway?




In early May, high school students across the nation take their Advanced Placement Tests so they can receive college credits. Indeed, to save college tuition is advantageous; however, sometimes not enrolling in general education classes, such as Composition 101, is disadvantageous for students.





I taught high school seniors the Advanced Placement Literature and Composition course for several years before retiring. After retirement, I taught former Advanced Placement students who placed out of the three-credit hour composition (or WRIT 101) course at Benedictine University. These students enrolled in a one-credit hour symposium entitled WRIT 104. I taught 16 sections at BU.

Generally speaking, some of these students should never have been exempted from WRIT 101, despite their Advanced Placement score! Some of them lack critical reading, writing, listening, speaking and researching skills. Furthermore, they have graduated from high schools with diverse Advanced Placement Programs. Unfortunately, all Advanced Placement Programs are not created equal. 

Though we have several in-class and online discussions but only one formally-written persuasive essay (in a class that meets one hour per week), I have discovered that some of my students lack an understanding of the deeper, more symbolic meanings of a text as well as the ability to critically comprehend a complex essay in order to assess its relevance and rhetorical style in making an argument.

Some of my students cannot produce focused, insightful analyses. Moreover, some of them lack the necessary proficiency to evaluate the varying degrees of quality and authenticity in sources; to synthesize information that supports a purpose; and to integrate pertinent research in a coherent, well-supported argumentative essay. 

It is disappointing when some Advanced Placement students cannot distinguish between facts and opinions, relevant and irrelevant claims, or factual accuracy and fallacious reasoning. 

It is unacceptable when some Advanced Placement students do not demonstrate an understanding of the writing process by carefully proofreading their writing for errors and omissions of both form and substance; by revising and restructuring where ideas are poorly organized or where evidence is lacking; and by correcting for errors in syntax, usage, punctuation, spelling and style.

At $89 per test with an $8 rebate granted to the sponsoring school for each test taken at high schools across the nation, one might deduce that Advanced Placement testing is simply a corporate, multi-billion dollar enterprise without educational value. 

-Glen Brown


So What Is the Value of AP Courses and Tests? “High school rankings by popular media usually take into account how many students take AP exams. Some high schools push students to take AP courses whether or not they are prepared, just to satisfy the rankings. But are the AP courses an appropriate measure of high quality? 



“A few of the nation’s top private and public high schools have dropped the AP courses, on the belief that their teachers created better courses than the AP. [Click here and here for archives of two New York Times articles].


“A reader responded to an earlier post about the Tucson BASIS charter schools by questioning the value of AP courses and tests: ‘Here is the essence of what Tim Steller wrote about BASIS-Tuscon: ‘the Basis schools require students to take eight AP courses before graduation, take six AP tests and pass at least one…That naturally helps Basis place high in the U.S. News rankings…’ Steller adds this important point in his article about BASIS, made by an education consultant: ‘AP has pulled the wool over people’s eyes across the nation…’ 


“‘Actually, it’s the College Board that has ‘pulled the wool over people’s eyes.’ About AP, to be sure. But also about the SAT and PSAT, and Accuplacer, the placement test used by more than 60 percent of community colleges. They’re all mostly worthless, more hype than reality… 


“A 2002 National Research Council study of AP courses and tests found them to be a ‘mile wide and an inch deep’ and inconsistent with research-based principles of learning. A 2004 study by Geiser and Santelices found that ‘the best predictor of both first- and second-year college grades’ is un-weighted high school grade point average, and a high school grade point average ‘weighted with a full bonus point for AP…is invariably the worst predictor of college performance.’ 


“A 2005 study (Klopfenstein and Thomas) found AP students ‘…generally no more likely than non-AP students to return to school for a second year or to have higher first semester grades.’ Moreover, the authors wrote that ‘close inspection of the [College Board] studies cited reveals that the existing evidence regarding the benefits of AP experience is questionable,’ and ‘AP courses are not a necessary component of a rigorous curriculum.’


“A 2006 MIT faculty report noted ‘there is a growing body of research that students who earn top AP scores and place out of institute introductory courses end up having ‘difficulty’ when taking the next course.’ 


“Two years prior, Harvard ‘conducted a study that found students who are allowed to skip introductory courses because they have passed a supposedly equivalent AP course do worse in subsequent courses than students who took the introductory courses at Harvard’ (Seebach, 2004)… 


“Students know that AP is far more about gaming the college acceptance process than it is learning…


“The 2010 book ‘AP: A Critical Examination’ noted that ‘Students see AP courses on their transcripts as the ticket ensuring entry into the college of their choice,’ yet, ‘there is a shortage of evidence about the efficacy, cost, and value of these programs.’ And this: AP has become ‘the juggernaut of American high school education,’ but ‘the research evidence on its value is minimal.’


“As [Saul] Geiser* (2007) notes, ‘systematic differences in student motivation, academic preparation, family background and high-school quality account for much of the observed difference in college outcomes between AP and non-AP students...’ 


“Klopfenstein and Thomas (2010) find that when these demographic characteristics are controlled for, the claims made for AP disappear. Yet, the myths –– especially about AP, the SAT and PSAT –– endure. 


“Meanwhile, the College Board is promoting the Common Core and says it has ‘aligned’ (cough, wink) its products with it. And people believe it. Stopping corporate-style ‘reform and the Common Core is easier said than done. Parents, students and educators are going to have to remove the wool from over their eyes. And that means abandoning blind belief in the College Board and the products it peddles.’”


Quotations are from What Is the Value of AP Courses and Tests? (Diane Ravitch's Blog)



*“[In Geiser’s and Veronica Santelice’s 2004 study that] examine[d] the role of Advanced Placement (AP) and other honors-level courses as a criterion for admission at… the University of California, the number of AP and honors courses taken in high school bears little or no relationship to students’ later performance in college. AP is increasingly emphasized as a factor in admissions, particularly at selective colleges and universities. But while student performance on AP examinations is strongly related to college performance, merely taking AP or other honors-level courses in high school is not a valid indicator of the likelihood that students will perform well in college. These findings suggest that institutions may need to reconsider the use of AP as a criterion in admissions, particularly given the marked disparity in access to AP and honors courses among disadvantaged and underrepresented minority students” (The Role Of Advanced Placement And Honors Courses In College Admissions)].



I was recently criticized on Facebook for re-posting this opinion article on December 16, 2018 and for not updating my sources. Here is a succinct update:  

Though taking a rigorous AP class can be a positive academic experience, many AP classes are not a true measure of high quality, and there is simply no way to determine the value of the high-stakes test scores.  Many students come from high schools that do not have competent and challenging programs. These students are entering colleges and universities without time management, study and note-taking skills and aptitudes for critical thinking, writing and analysis. To make matters worse, high schools across the nation are allowing more and more students - who are often apathetic and unprepared - to enroll in these AP classes for the wrong reasons as well: to assuage parental demands, to save college tuition, to avoid taking essential Freshman courses, and to impress college admissions.


Furthermore, “Questions about the A.P. program’s purpose [and their monopoly for granting college level credits] are complicated further by the fact that it provides a not-insignificant amount of revenue for the College Board. Of the College Board’s total $916 million in revenue in 2015, $408 million came from fees for the test and instructional materials. [This year, the test fee will be $94.]…” (Tugend). Consider the College Board is also “a billion-dollar-a-year corporation which uses its excess revenue—and they are substantial over its cost—to build fancy buildings down on Wall Street and to pay its executives high six figure, if not seven figure salaries’” (Dwyer).  


Bibliography:

Dwyer, Liz. “The Standardized Test Monopoly that Secretly Runs America’s High Schools.” Good Education. 14 May 2017. 22 December 2018 https://education.good.is/features/ap-classes-a-scam-or-smart-move

“Our schools will get rid of AP courses. Here’s why.” Editorial. Washington Post.com 18 June 2018. 22 December 2018 https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/our-schools-got-rid-of-ap-courses-heres-why/2018/06/18/24018654-7316-11e8-9780-b1dd6a09b549_story.html?utm_term=.eebeaa582896


Tugend, Alina. “Who Benefits from the Expansion of AP Classes?” The New York Times Magazine. 7 Sept. 2017. 22 December 2018 https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/07/magazine/who-benefits-from-the-expansion-of-ap-classes.html

29 comments:

  1. From Bob Lyons:

    Glen, I taught AP European History first to seniors, and then when the AP classes multiplied I made it a course for the best sophomores that were recommended by their freshman world history teacher. I took courses during the summer at Carleton College in teaching AP and found that the teachers of introductory English and also Economics that were sharp and honest recommended to their high school students to take the college introductory classes anyway, even if they gained a 4 or a 5 on the test.

    I was a grader for AP Europe and learned that the state of South Carolina was using the AP test as their improvement plan for education in the state. They gave their high schools state money based on the number of AP tests the schools administered. Every freshman in world history in the state was given the opportunity to take the AP European test without necessarily any specialized preparation.

    We would get essays that were terrible and simply say, “Another one from SC.” The College Board is a profit making business, and very good profit is made.

    P.S.

    I worked for the College Board for about ten years helping other high school teachers prepare or improve their European AP classes. I thought the AP European classes and the test were excellent and valid, but I retired twenty years ago and the number of AP courses was multiplying and has continue to expand.

    —Bob

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  2. From Sig Lisowski:

    I point you to this link on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/The-Reign-ETS-corporation-Educational/dp/B0007APPYY

    I have cited this report in other posts. It is VERY DIFFICULT to get a hold of, primarily because I believe it shows the inherent promotion of Eugenics and racial/cultural prejudice that was at the foundation of our "testing culture" and the company that started it all.

    I spent my entire career as a guidance counselor watching the cancerous growth of AP testing and testing in general. Growth due to various reasons, the education of the student being the last real reason.

    Glen's article above also cites many sources that question the value and use of AP testing with regards to college and the admission process. What is behind those questions are two testing terms (which you rarely see used nowadays) VALIDITY and RELIABILITY.

    I'm not going to go into testing and stats here, if you're interested, Google it.

    Glen cites the $8 rebate. This $8 may be considered a "kickback" in some circles. In my opinion, it is. When I was working, AP European History was being considered as a FRESHMAN course. All the experiences Glen cited were the gist of our department’s opposition to such a course offering. We even had to remind administration that you can't call a course AP unless it was from the company; they wanted to do that too.

    Just more reasons why education is failing to educate students but enriching corporations--bring on charter schools and Common Core---corporations need more money.

    —Sig

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  3. "2.7 Million Students Expected to Take Nearly 5 Million AP Exams in May 2017" at $94. for each test. Think about that.

    https://www.collegeboard.org/.../students-take-ap-exams...

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  4. Shirley Ross Baker: What if universities simply quit offering credits for AP/IB/dual credit courses at all? What if universities charged a reasonable price for tuition so the market for these courses was eliminated? In my 21 years as a high school teacher, relatively few students enrolled in my AP classes cared anything about what they learned. Their concern was passing the exam to be able to skip an introductory course in order to save money. And at my current school, we are losing AP students to Running Start because the college credit is guaranteed. It’s not about rigor or learning. It’s about money.

    Eric Rovie to Shirley Ross Baker: “Relatively few students enrolled in my AP classes cared anything about what they learned” [Glen Brown]. True-but no less true once they get to college. I’ve taught dozens of intro level college courses in English, Religious Studies, and Philosophy and most of the students in those classes are only taking the class to fill the requirement. There is very little intellectual curiosity about the subject matter-it’s a class at the right time and a means to the degree, and little more.

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  5. Jodi Rice: I read your piece with interest, as someone whose current work includes helping to clarify with teachers the work of the AP Lang course and exam and is always interested in constructive criticism about what works and what doesn’t. And the College Board is especially interested in how college instructors perceive (and misperceive) the AP program.

    There have been similar criticisms before, most of them based solely on the content and form of the exams, some based on the content and form of the courses.

    Here is perhaps my main contention with your argument:

    You have claimed that AP is “without educational value.”

    That’s a bold — and sweeping — claim. Even more so since it’s based on your own perspective in this blog post. I doubt, though, that the claim is supported by data from across a broad spectrum of sources or based on observations of control groups.

    There *are* stats and analysis based on that kind of data, if you need it. Although I’m not certain it would back the claim of the program being without educational value. Perhaps not the value that some folks would like it to have — but no-one claims the exams to be a perfect measure of student skill, which, again, is why colleges and universities make their own decisions about what kind of credit or placement to grant based on what they consider to be valuable in student assessment at the high school level.

    As others have stated above, your responses to people’s comments haven’t really enlightened beyond what is in your post. So, like Melody, I’m not sure what your purpose is in posting. I’m not sure what distinction you’re making between “provocative” and “evocative.” You haven’t clarified. When you’ve claimed that people have missed your point, you haven’t clarified what your point is.

    If you have questions about the AP program, I can happily put you in touch with the English curriculum coordinator at the College Board. Or I can answer any further questions you have about it to the best of my ability, especially if it helps to dispel some misconceptions about the purpose and expectations of the AP Lang course and exam.

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  6. Glen Brown Jodi Rice: Jodi, do you teach AP English classes?

    Jodi Rice: Yes. I also help to develop the exams and curriculum for AP Lang, and have worked for the past 5 years doing social media-based teacher outreach for Lang for the College Board. Just so that you are aware of my affiliation there.

    Glen Brown Jodi Rice: How many years have you taught?

    Jodi Rice: Do you teach Lang? Or did you teach only Lit before teaching at the college level?

    Glen Brown Jodi Rice: I taught Literature and Composition...

    Jodi Rice: I’ve taught English for over 20 years, and started teaching AP in 2004 and have taught it ever since.

    Jodi Rice: I’ve been an exam Reader since 2013, a member of the Development Committee since the fall of that year, and a table leader for the past three years.

    I hope my credentials are satisfactory.

    Glen Brown Jodi Rice: Jodi, How many students took the AP English Literature and Composition and AP Language and Composition exams last year?

    Jodi Rice Glen Brown: I don’t have data on hand for Lit, but Lang: just under 600,000. It’s the largest of the exams.

    Glen Brown Jodi Rice: Is 600,000 the highest it has ever been?

    Glen Brown Jodi Rice: I believe 400,000+ had taken the Lit & Comp exam last year.

    Jodi Rice: Yes, it is the highest it has ever been.

    Jodi Rice: (This is fun. It’s like speech and debate practice. Wanna teach my kids cross-x?)

    Jodi Rice: (I am actually on my way to a family event, so may drop off at any time.)

    Glen Brown Jodi Rice: Enjoy your family time.

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    1. "I hope my credentials are satisfactory" - Rice. I chose not to respond to her sarcasm.

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  7. Kristy Seidel to Glen Brown: can you please share what your purpose is? Are you wishing to make a case for the total elimination of Advanced Placement?

    Glen Brown: Kristy, I am not making a "case for the total elimination of Advanced Placement"; however, the AP tests are not truly representative of what a student will do in college. Not all high school AP programs across this country are the same. Some are quite rigorous; some are not for various reasons. A score of "3" is too low, for instance. I found that even students who have scored a "4" or "5" on the exam have trouble writing at the college level. Furthermore, the AP testing conglomerate will net $470,000,000+ this year and has a powerful influence over curricula and what teachers do in their AP classes.

    Kristy Seidel: I mean- not all first year comp classes, instructors, and expectations are the same

    Glen Brown: Indeed!

    Virginia Donohue: I think Glen Brown is questioning the $$$ - why are so many students taking an exam that seems to guarantee a low score for so many of them? I’ve read for Lit and then for Lang since 2001 and have seen a real change in the essays I read. I do NOT fault teachers-we are on such uneven playing fields. Class sizes for some are 18 or less, for others 44. My stuck record is as loud as ever on this issue that I cannot believe the C B won’t even mention in the course descriptions.

    Eric Rovie to Virginia Donohue: I received a folder last year at the AP Lit Reading containing almost 20 booklets from the same school. Over half of them were blank. Not a single essay that I read was above a 3. One of the students left a note saying that her school required all seniors to take AP Lit and all of them had to take the exam. The school paid for them to turn in blank essays.

    Virginia Donohue to Eric Rovie: Yep- that’s what I’m seeing too.

    Glen Brown to Virginia: "2.7 Million Students Expected to Take Nearly 5 Million AP Exams in May 2017" at $94. for each test. https://www.collegeboard.org/.../students-take-ap-exams...

    COLLEGEBOARD.ORG
    2.7 Million Students Expected to Take Nearly 5 Million AP Exams in May

    Virginia Donohue: Shameless capitalism.

    Glen Brown: $470,000,000.

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  8. Angela Tolle Perkins to Virginia Donohue: Then why be a part of this group if that is your perspective? This group is for those of us who need support and teaching ideas.

    Virginia Donohue: Not judging the value of the class, just the greed of the College Board. I love the exchanges.

    Diane Radel-Morrow: As a teacher of AP Lang and AP Lit at an at-risk high school with very few students passing the AP test, I am going to tell you that a thousand times a thousand times a thousand times, my students benefited from my AP classes. They learned rigor and discipline and analytical skills and how to write thesis statements and concessions and counter arguments and...My students could be the poster students on WHY students need AP classes to help them overcome the lack of challenges and college preparedness in regular English classes. I will go to my grave sharing how important AP classes are to at-risk schools in spite of the low test scores. AP classes were their saving grace. And I repeat...in spite of their low test scores.

    Glen Brown: Diane, Yes. The teacher's competence, passion, and curriculum are essential and lasting, not the test. The test is not truly representative of what a student can learn in an enriched classroom environment like yours.

    Diane Radel-Morrow: Yes, and the required curriculum prepares them for the collegiate world. These are first generation college students and so many of them are highly successful in college because of this course.

    Glen Brown: I agree, but the test is not always a reliable indicator of success in college; moreover, honors programs vary. I have asked my students who came from various high schools about their AP classes: what they read, what they analyzed, how much compositions were assigned... You would be surprised.

    Diane Radel-Morrow: I feel like the test is the least important part of the program. NOT, that it is not valuable, but there is oh so much more to AP classes!

    Glen Brown: Yes, it depends upon the teacher, the program, and the school. Teaching that is modified for the purpose of taking one test (that will potentially offer college credit) should not be the focus. In some high schools, it is.

    Virginia Donohue: My beef is with the push for kids to take the exam, not the class itself. I agree with all those who defend and support the class as a wonderful enriching experience. Diane Radel-Morrow, I agree with you, and I agree with Glen Brown.

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  9. I graduated from HS in the pre-AP era, but the same quandary existed. By my scores on a college qualifying test, I was passed into that higher level, even though I knew and protested that my HS course work had not prepared me for it. I nearly failed the course. How do you enforce rigor into the college bound coursework? That needs to be the question. Damn the HS's that use the number of students taking the course as a brag, make sure the lack of quality in the scoring is made evident. Those who work for College Board need to look at themselves. Are they corporate toadies, or educators? Real educators are brutally honest. Neither teachers nor students improve with false feedback(fake news anyone?). College Board should want to improve the rigor of "their" AP so that it really means something, not just dollars on a ledger.

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  10. From Richard Palzer:

    "But while student performance on AP examinations is strongly related to college performance, merely taking AP or other honors-level courses in high school is not a valid indicator of the likelihood that students will perform well in college. These findings suggest that institutions may need to reconsider the use of AP as a criterion in admissions, particularly given the marked disparity in access to AP and honors courses among disadvantaged and underrepresented minority students” (The Role Of Advanced Placement And Honors Courses In College Admissions)]."

    My experience teaching AP is extremely limited, having substituted for less than a semester, so take my reaction with more than just the proverbial grain of salt. But my usual response about "teaching to the test," which has been so much maligned, is that if what's being tested is designed to measure the outcomes desired, then such tests are valid and worthwhile. So my concern is for the make-up of the tests; to that end, the higher-education institutions granting credit must help create and validate the merit of the courses offered high school students. I'm struck by the first sentence quoted above from the critique you sent--that strong relationship between exam and college performance reflects value.

    But I share your concerns regarding the use and intent, certainly including the reality of the College Board profit.

    As for the rest of what I've quoted from the critique regarding disadvantaged and underrepresented minorities, my concern goes beyond the lack of access to the student preparation needed to achieve when provided access. That's as much the root of the problem as the nature of the test and courses is to my above concern. I recognize that I'm addressing the racial/ethnic gap, but I'd prefer to pursue identifying what differences, including behavior and attitude, should be accommodated. Let's get all students the educational opportunity to succeed.

    -Richard

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  11. From Bob Lyons:

    One example about what was wrong with the College Board: the guy who was responsible for the history AP courses told us the story about an administrator at Stevenson who wanted to limit the number of AP classes and the number of students taking AP. The official claimed with some pride that he got the administrator “fired.”

    Through the years, the number of courses, classes, and AP students multiplied. The College Board would take us out the night before we would teach the new AP teachers. It would be the best restaurant in town, and it was steak and lobster and premium booze. Everything about it was money.

    -Bob Lyons

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    1. I stand by my original comments of 5-5-14. Those who believe that AP is there for the good of the student are naive. Their bubbles have been filled out for them by those that use/see education as a cash cow and they care not to go outside the bubble to see it for what it is: a means of enrichment for the testers not the testes.

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  12. Nicole Marie: I think a huge part of the issue is secondary schools paying lip service to the necessity of developing reading and critical thinking skills, while not substantially supporting the teaching of either. We switched to no full-length texts in our AP program (Lang.) under the guidance of a colleague that administration likes, because “kids don’t like to read”. I also see low-skilled students who I taught the previous year get 100’s in this teacher’s AP class. 100... for an average. In AP. How?

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    1. Karen Dulaney Smith: I have to follow a teacher who did that! Mid-year, to boot. They are actually telling me they don’t want me to teach the class because they’ve heard I require work and don’t hand out an A!

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    2. Nicole Marie: It’s so frustrating. This other teacher has now been given 5 sections of AP Lang to my 1 section of AP Lang. that consists of the highest-risk students in the grade. To make matters worse, his students have started bullying my kids telling them that they are dumb bc they have me for a teacher. Now where would that idea come from?? And now, the kids who are “stuck” with me think they are “learning less” bc they do not do dialectical journals like the other class, who covered a portion of Letter from Birmingham Jail for 5 weeks. I’m over it. It’s a man’s world where I’m living, and I’m feeling the injustice of it heavily this year.

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    3. Karen Dulaney Smith to Nicole Marie: Gross! Yep, an entire semester covering one play. No academic press whatsoever!

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  13. Judy Skartvedt Huston: I can not argue your point. I recently received a new student from a neighboring metroplex school. After reading his first paper, I did some questioning of what he had done in his previous AP class. They had read no books, only short stories - which could work if done correctly. My assessment put him at the very low end of my students. After receiving his transfer grades, I did a double-take. He had a 97 in his former class. The student is more than upset with my assessment of his skills, and said his former teacher is obviously a better judge because he has a doctorate and I only have a master’s. If his skills receive a 97, it supports your point. I agree with your assessment that all AP classes are not created equally.

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  14. Mary Ortner Neve: I won't comment on the AP or College Board insinuations. When I teach AP Lit and AP Lang my goal is to help students build critical skills in analysis and argument. I encourage them to evaluate sources with a critical lens, question purpose, and make educated decisions. These skills support the test, help them be more successful in college, and hopefully more aware citizens in the modern world. If our AP classes are only serving to make people good at a test it does a disservice to all entities. There is so much more to this whole debate than whether a kid who scores a 3 on the test is prepared for college courses.

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  15. Jim Morgan: I love the literature exam and have a great deal of respect for it. But, it's only a single assessment. For years the AP program has been morphing into a high-level subject aptitude test, rather than a "you're so advanced you deserve college credit even though you're not in college" test, especially in the humanities. The College Board brought this on when they decided everyone should be in AP. Over four hundred thousand students took the literature exam last year, nearly six hundred thousand the language exam. No way can all the students scoring a 3 or better on those exams be that "advanced."

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  16. Alegría Ríos-Dickinson: The program has not changed in any substantive way over the last four years; not all AP classes are created equal, and some AP teachers are only as good as their former AP teachers.

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  17. Karen Ludwig Baxter: Grade inflation is a serious problem, no doubt. If I had a class full of failing seniors (no matter how low their abilities), I wouldn’t have a job.

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    1. Rachel Amador to Karen Ludwig Baxter: Agreed! I was told at the beginning of this school year to “not be so hard on them” and to “create a loving environment” because students wanted to drop my class but admin has a no drop policy from AP classes.

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    2. Julie Kaufman-Watanabe to Rachel Amador: I was just told something similar.

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    3. Jane Harter Aldridge: Same.

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  18. Kelley Haney Poulos: If universities are granting first year comp credit, they also carry some of the blame. Most universities in NC give credit for a 4 or a 5 (that is changing next year to a 3 at all state schools — too low in my opinion), but most give an elective credit and still require first year comp. The majority of my students who make a 4 or 5 are ready for college-level writing; however, there isn’t much we can do to recreate a true college experience or duplicate university professors’ expectations (both or which are just as varied — and contradictory) as those AP classes which “aren’t created equal.” With our low AP lit pass rate, I would venture that most students who make a 4 or 5 are ready to transition seamlessly to a college setting.

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  19. Jim Morgan: Of course it would be nice if people didn't have to go into an endless cycle of debt to pay for a college education. It shouldn't surprise anyone that families will beg and grovel for any way to cut down the expenses, including doing "college" while still in high school.

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  20. Mark Roberts: I guess you’ve got to teach them what you care about, Glen.

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    1. Mark,

      This is what I care about when teaching: In my classroom, students learn that I am passionate about searching for truth; that there exists a vast chasm between knowledge and belief; and that any method of investigative research should take on continuous questioning, re-evaluation, and revision. During classroom discussions, I often posit controversial and contrary ideas to spur my students to inquiry and debate. In doing so, I hope to challenge and encourage each one of them to devote the time and energy necessary to think these matters through – without telling them what to think.

      In my classroom, my students’ experience is the direct result of my own incessant learning: Plato, Hume, Mill, Wittgenstein, Shakespeare, Joyce, Kafka, and Camus, among so many others, show us that truths are elusive and relative, that nearly all beliefs are fallible and provisional, and that both truth and belief require unrelenting analysis and proof.

      With a fundamental commitment to human rights, founded on philosophical principles and ideals, I challenge my students—through literature, philosophy, history, psychology, poetry and science, and through their own writing—to pursue a life based on logic, reason, critical thinking, compassion, empathy, humility, integrity, dignity, political and social justice, responsibility, mutual respect, and life-long learning.

      Works, both classic and modern, are presented to explore concepts such as determinism, freedom of choice, the nature of reality, knowledge, ethics, and our moral responsibility towards one another and the rest of the natural world. My favorite authors reveal that we are each responsible for who we are and what we will become, and that the human experience is, consequently, complex and varied with many meanings because each one of us can create his or her future.

      These are the values at the center of my core beliefs. What I have learned about the craft of teaching is that the teacher’s character and competency have a recurring impact on a student’s life and so, as I challenge my students, I must constantly challenge my own beliefs with rigorous inquiry, meta-cognition, and review.

      In my classroom, learning is a discovery process shaped by analysis, reflection, and application. We become aware that we are all teachers and learners. My goals as a teacher are to take a student’s potentiality and to make it an actuality; to teach my students to think and investigate critically, to question unremittingly, and to discover purpose through meaningful action.

      My students justify what they believe with evidence and describe how they arrived at their conclusions. They distinguish between facts and opinions and between relevant and irrelevant claims. They determine the factual accuracy of their statements and learn to detect bias and fallacious reasoning commonly found in argumentation. They ask themselves why some beliefs can be exempt from empirical confirmation while other beliefs undergo rigorous a posteriori proof.

      They examine their reasons for supporting their particular opinions and question the efficacy of their beliefs’ practices (for there are some dogmas that advocate violence, terrorism, subjugation, misogyny, homophobia, xenophobia, ethnic cleansing, and racial hatred). I want my students to confront such thinking and impede those who hold such viewpoints. I want my students to be dynamic and to be appalled by hypocrisy and indifference, by arrogance and incompetence, and by immorality and injustice.

      -Glen

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