The article published 4-29-09 is entitled, Many Teachers in Advanced Placement Voice Concern at Its Rapid Growth. Look here for the complete text. With the AP Tests only a few days away this is certainly timely and will surely generate many reader comments on the NYT website. I'm sure it will also appear in Education Week and many other print and online media. The article refers to a study done by the prestigious Thomas B. Fordham Institute and the opening paragraph really says it all:
A survey of more than 1,000 teachers of Advanced Placement courses in American high schools has found that more than half are concerned that the program’s effectiveness is being threatened as districts loosen restrictions on who can take such rigorous courses and as students flock to them to polish their résumés.Having taught AP classes for a few decades I have strong feelings about the equity vs. excellence issues surrounding these classes but I would rather raise a series of questions and ask my readers to provide some data as well as voice their opinions.
Trevor Packer, the Vice President of the College Board, was very pleased by the "questions the report asks" and welcomes the dialog. I'm not so sure, however, that he is pleased by the majority sentiment of AP teachers that the quality of these classes has been compromised by encouraging more and more students to take classes for which they may not be prepared.
My sense is that like most complex issues we need to first determine who is doing what out there. I believe that there is wide disparity among districts regarding entrance into these classes and whether AP tests are required or not. The College Board has attempted to address some of these issues with their new AP Audit process but I wonder how effective that really is.
These questions are being posed to AP Calculus teachers or those familiar with how their district handles these decisions.
1) What stated prerequisites (e.g., in a Program of Studies), if any, are there in your district for entrance into an AP class?
"Students must earn a grade of B or better in Precalculus and/or be recommended by their teacher."
2) Is the test mandatory for all students in the class? If a student does not take the test do they still receive AP credit for the class? (This is more relevant of course, transcript-wise, for Juniors, Sophs and Freshmen).
3) Who pays the $86 for each AP test?
Note: I'm guessing that parents in most cases pick up the tab but, if a hardship can be documented, the district would pay. I've also read that in some states the cost is covered by the state or district.
Click Read more... for questions regarding your opinions.
Some more questions/thoughts...
4) Do you believe that strict entrance requirements are needed to insure the quality of the course or that enrollment will ultimately be affected by the reputation (quality, expectations and grading standards) of the teacher?
5) Your other thoughts...