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    #246085 - 09/18/19 05:32 AM Learning in the Fast Lane (Advanced Placement)
    Bostonian Offline

    Registered: 02/14/10
    Posts: 2638
    Loc: MA
    Not All Gifted Children Are From Affluent Families
    To help the poor rise, the education system needs to ‘raise the ceiling’ as well as ‘lift the floor.’
    By Jason L. Riley
    Wall Street Journal
    Sept. 17, 2019 6:41 pm ET

    All of us understand why so many discussions about K-12 education center on bringing low-achieving students up to speed. How could they not? Despite massive increases in school spending over the past half-century, the U.S. Department of Education reports that nearly two-thirds of our youngsters score below the proficient level on national reading tests, and large socioeconomic disparities persist. Obviously, this is a problem.

    But according to Chester Finn, it is not a problem we should be focused on to the neglect of our high-achieving students. Mr. Finn is something of a school-reform guru. He was an assistant secretary of education during the Reagan administration. Later, he headed the Fordham Institute, a think tank that specializes in education policy. His new book, “Learning in the Fast Lane,” which he wrote with Andrew Scanlan, is both a history and full-throated defense of the Advanced Placement program, which allows smart students to take college-level courses in high school. It’s a follow-up to a book on selective public schools that he and Jessica Hockett published in 2012.

    Mr. Finn’s focus on academic overachievers stands out at a time when gifted-and-talented programs, honors tracks and exam schools are increasingly under fire for their elitism and lack of diversity. Mr. Finn considers that criticism misplaced. Our education system should be able simultaneously to “raise the ceiling” for those who are exceptionally able and “lift the floor” for others who are struggling.



    The authors describe their book in an article

    Learning in the Fast Lane: The Past, Present, and Future of Advanced Placement
    Chester E. Finn, Jr. Andrew Scanlan

    #246089 - 09/19/19 12:51 PM Re: Learning in the Fast Lane (Advanced Placement) [Re: Bostonian]
    Val Offline

    Registered: 09/01/07
    Posts: 3296
    Loc: California
    I have three kids. One is a grade-skipped 11th grader taking AP Calc at our local high school. The other two opted for the local dual enrollment program at the community college, where the eldest got a free AS in math when he graduated from high school.

    My 11th grader is very obviously good at math, and she hates AP Calc so much, she wanted to drop it in favor of regular calc only two weeks in. Problem: too many kids had beat her to it, and the regular calc class was full.

    The two classes cover the same material, so ... why would you drop the AP class? Answer: because it goes through the entire year's worth of material by February (includes extra extra work over the summer), so as to give everyone 3 months to "study" for the AP exam. So they memorize, regurgitate, and completely fail to understand. FFS. The kids in the regular calc class would probably do better on the AP test.

    My eldest took AP US history and dropped it after two weeks (memorize and regurgitate; 40-minutes timed essays). This year, AP Psych consists of long MC quizzes and "open response" questions that are actually just definitions. Etc.

    Meanwhile, my current 12th grader is taking actual college-level history at the community college, where he's learning to take notes, choose an essay topic, and write an actual college-level essay. Chemistry and calculus are based around calculations, and no one is worried about a bubble test in May.

    Seriously, if we want to give bright low-income kids an honest chance at succeeding in college, we should be sending them to dual enrollment programs, not turning them into AP drones while pretending that AP classes even remotely resemble college classes.

    #246092 - 09/19/19 06:00 PM Re: Learning in the Fast Lane (Advanced Placement) [Re: Val]
    aeh Offline

    Registered: 04/26/14
    Posts: 3990
    I'm with you on this one, Val.

    You wouldn't think it would come up in exactly that way for us, as we've homeschooled, but a surprising number of homeschoolers in our area seek out homeschool co-op AP courses, which has always puzzled me, since dual enrollment availability (all CCs and some four-years) and cost is quite favorable in our area (all high schoolers, regardless of schooling setting, can enroll for credit as long as they place into the course, and have approval of the home district--pretty much a shoo-in for homeschoolers). And the state higher ed agency has mandated that all CCs and state unis have clearly posted articulation agreements, spelling out which courses are freely transferable, so you know right up front if a given course is going to have any value at a four-year.

    If AP is supposed to be equivalent to the first college-level course in that subject, it makes a whole lot more sense to set up articulation agreements, and have have qualified high school students just take the actual college course. If you feel like bumping up your AP examinee and score numbers (a metric for district achievement in many state education agencies), then have them take the college course in the fall, and sit the AP exam in the spring. I'd be surprised if students who passed the college course did poorly on the exam.

    As it happens, the institution where I am employed does both: some AP courses are offered, as well as opportunities for high-achieving students to enroll in DE, with our first cohort currently working on graduating from high school with an AA at public expense. We're not by any means the typical high-achieving school, either. Many of our students are first-generation college students (now), and/or would have struggled to fund the AA after high school graduation--and they certainly wouldn't have had as much support as we are able to provide while they are dual enrolled.
    ...pronounced like the long vowel and first letter of the alphabet...

    #246094 - 09/19/19 08:03 PM Re: Learning in the Fast Lane (Advanced Placement) [Re: aeh]
    Val Offline

    Registered: 09/01/07
    Posts: 3296
    Loc: California
    Good points, aeh.

    I've seen a whole lot of positive aspects of DE, both for my kids and others. I took a physics class last year, and there was a DE student in the class. She was accepted to one of the UCs to study physics, and I suspect she got nearly two years of credit toward her degree there. Another young women in the neighborhood got a free vet assistant qualification through a DE program. She studied anatomy and physiology, animal behavior, etc. She was from a low-income family, and this program really helped her -- at no cost.

    AP programs began in the very late 40s or very early 50s, when community colleges weren't as ubiquitous as they are now. I counted 13 community colleges from San Jose to San Francisco and around the bay, and only 2 of them existed before 1953 (one in SF and one in SJ). So DE really wasn't an option until much later (1974 at LaGuardia CC maybe?). Back then, AP courses were a great idea. But also back then, the system wasn't obsessed with bubble tests and industrial measures of educational outcomes. As I recall, they also taught a semester's worth of college work in a full academic year. IMO, this was a strength, given that college students don't typically take 6-7 full-credit courses in a semester, but HS students do.

    On the other hand, my DE-enrolled kids take 2-3 HS classes, and can take up to 11 college credits per semester (= 2 full-credit classes with room for PE at the college).

    Maybe it's time to re-evaluate AP. Maybe its time has passed, at least in places with a community college. Most college classes (and all the good ones) don't revolve around memorizing stuff for a bubble test, and AFAIK, none of them assign homework over the summer. Plus, DE programs put students at real-live college. They learn EXACTLY what to expect from college, because they've been there.

    #246095 - 09/20/19 02:48 AM Re: Learning in the Fast Lane (Advanced Placement) [Re: Bostonian]
    madeinuk Offline

    Registered: 03/18/13
    Posts: 1453
    Loc: NJ
    Food for thought there Val and Aeh.

    We have blindly followed the HS's progression into AP classes not for college credit per se but because these appear to offer the most challenge for our DD. Currently, our 10th grader is taking Chemistry, Biology and Calc BC APs. I fully agree about the summer work being a waste of a summer but there again our DD thrives at CTY in the summers but we do this primarily for socialization it has to be said.

    We do have a CC 'nearby' but our DD14 obviously cannot drive herself there but perhaps we should reevaluate that once she is driving.
    Become what you are

    #246096 - 09/20/19 07:07 AM Re: Learning in the Fast Lane (Advanced Placement) [Re: Bostonian]
    Bostonian Offline

    Registered: 02/14/10
    Posts: 2638
    Loc: MA
    Here is an example of the usefulness of AP. My son took calculus at the Russian School of Math, earned a 5 on the AP Calculus BC exam, and as a senior is taking online schools-sponsored classes using Math XL in linear algebra and differential equations. I would be uncomfortable with his not having calculus on his high school transcript without an AP exam score to certify his knowledge of the subject.

    #246097 - 09/20/19 09:59 AM Re: Learning in the Fast Lane (Advanced Placement) [Re: Bostonian]
    NotSoGifted Offline

    Registered: 04/14/12
    Posts: 453
    While AP classes aren't necessarily college level (depends upon your definition of college level, however), in many places, they are the best option for a bright HS kid. Community colleges are good in some areas of the country, but not where I live. Parents threaten their kids - in jest - that they'll send them to the community college if they misbehave. That's why most four year colleges around here wouldn't accept a community college calculus course - they have no idea what the student actually learned. At least with an AP score (as Bostonian explained), the college knows the student has a certain level of knowledge in the subject.

    AP classes aren't just fill in the bubble MC tests. Yes, there is MC on the APs, but the tests also have free response questions. My kid's AP Calc class spent time on understanding of the underlying fundamentals, which helped with the "free response" portion of the test, and the reason why the teacher consistently has an average class score of 4.8+ (so most receive 5s).

    I don't think you can fake your way through the foreign language free response, either, as you need to do written responses and spoken responses.

    And at some colleges, you can get a bunch of AP credits, which may fulfill some gen eds, and allow you to double major or finish in three years. APs aren't perfect, but they are the best option for certain students.

    #246098 - 09/20/19 10:45 AM Re: Learning in the Fast Lane (Advanced Placement) [Re: Bostonian]
    cricket3 Offline

    Registered: 11/02/09
    Posts: 693
    I totally agree with notsogifted. CC classes here are definitely not at the AP level, at least from what I’ve heard, and many of the DE classes offered at our hs, through a couple different 4-year universities, both public and private, are considered to be less rigorous by the students, and usually chosen by the kids looking for a lighter class.

    I think a lot of the criticisms Val pointed out may be teacher or district-specific things. My kids both found our calculus BC class to be easy and too slow-moving for their tastes. There was summer homework, but for this class it was review problems (tons of them) and my kids just didn’t do them (thankfully they weren’t graded). The class included group projects with some writing and presentations, that involved practical applications of calculus which were challenging and interesting, definitely requiring upper-level thinking. My DD was able to place out of the first two semesters of calc in college and was well-prepared for the math class she was placed in.

    I also agree that the foreign language and English lit classes, while a lot of work, were valuable and well-taught. Again, allowed my DD to place out of fl requirements and into upper-level courses in fl. This was not true in English lit, despite earning a 5, but I don’t think this class is college-level, so I’m not complaining. It was still the best class choice available to my kids at their hs, including DE courses.

    I also think the focus on the exam must really vary. For my kids, the only APs where the exam was directly practiced for were in history, particularly world history. There were good aspects to the history courses, primarily the readings and seminars, as well as research projects, but the focus on s specific essay format and time-requirements was a waste of time and frustrating to my kids. However, even this was teacher-specific- my kids had to do it, but there are teachers at our school who teach AP history without any of that and from both classes seem to do equally well on the exam. It’s just a pity more teachers aren’t confident enough to teach the material the way they think it should be done.

    Overall, I agree that in many cases these are not college level classes, and am therefore not surprised that most of my kids’ APs won’t get them any credits. But I don’t think CC and the DE stuff I’ve seen here are, either. I do think APs were better in most cases than the alternatives available to us, and the workload, while ridiculous at times, certainly prepared my kid for college work.

    #246101 - 09/20/19 02:03 PM Re: Learning in the Fast Lane (Advanced Placement) [Re: Bostonian]
    mecreature Offline

    Registered: 03/14/11
    Posts: 358
    Nice Post cricket3.

    That sounds real close to our experience.

    My son a junior is taking AP stats this year and really misses his AP Calc BC class and teacher from last year. He is also taking AP Chem, English Lit, Spanish, Stats and Eur History. In doing this he had some control on who his teachers would be for the year. He was going to go with the IB diploma but there were not enough periods for him to continue into Japanese 3 and he didn't really want to self study (he likes the teacher and classmates). He also want to take ceramics.

    He is doing very well socially and we love that. The school is very big and its hit or miss on which teacher you could end up with if you even dropped to honors or ACP classes.

    #246102 - 09/20/19 04:39 PM Re: Learning in the Fast Lane (Advanced Placement) [Re: NotSoGifted]
    ashley Offline

    Registered: 03/26/12
    Posts: 639
    Originally Posted By: NotSoGifted
    While AP classes aren't necessarily college level (depends upon your definition of college level, however), in many places, they are the best option for a bright HS kid. Community colleges are good in some areas of the country, but not where I live.

    I agree with this. The problems with DE are:
    - Not all community colleges are created equal and I have heard about some awful ones (not where I live, though) and in such cases, AP provides a standardized curriculum and exam.
    - DE grades go into the permanent college transcript and may not be helpful for getting future financial aid for a student with a not-so-stellar grade. I have heard of students stuck with bad teachers in DE classes scrambling to drop their classes within the first 2 sessions so as to not affect their transcript.
    - DE or AP choice also depends on what the colleges that the student is applying to require for admissions.
    Though we are not there yet, I like to know what options are available out there. So, thanks for all the inputs.

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