AP for Everyone: It’s Our Best Yardstick We Have
As AP leaders and readers begin grading student exams this week, Washington Post writer Jay Matthews makes the case for an almost universal validity in high school students taking AP courses (Is AP for All A Formula For Failure?). He takes on the arguments that ‘only qualified students’ should be allowed in AP classes and makes the brief case for even weaker students benefiting from their AP experiences.
I like it. Broaden the opportunity. Why not give all kids the opportunity to stretch themselves; face academic challenge head-on; see where they stand what they can do?
“They (poorly performing schools) have tried raising achievement slowly with remedial education. It didn’t work, in part because the teachers and students had no worthy goal to shoot for. So they have made the AP test their benchmark, and in preparing for it hope to give low- performing students the strenuous academic exercise they need for college. Few pass the three-hour AP exams, so few get college credit. So what? They aren’t in college yet. This way they have a chance to accustom themselves to the foot-high reading assignments and torturous exams they will encounter in college.
Each year, more data suggest that this is the right approach. A new study of 302,969 students who graduated from Texas high schools shows that even low-performing students — those who got a failing grade of 2 on the 5-point AP test — did significantly better in college than did similarly low- performing, low-income students who did not take AP. Nationally, most high schools are so lax in their duties that half their students heading for college never take an AP, IB or Cambridge course and test and thus have little clue what awaits them…
My response is, what harm does that do? They work harder in high school, and if they graduate still determined not to go to college, they will discover that those AP skills are just what they need to get the best available jobs or trade school slots.
If they don’t take an AP class and test, they will never know whether they could have handled it. Many students from non-college families discover they can…” (WP)
His article isn’t really about AP courses. It’s an argument for academic rigor- challenging and providing all students- even weaker academic students with the kinds of challenges and experiences that will prepare them for higher ed and make them more self aware. Few good arguments stand in support of the gate keeper proposition- against including as many students in rigorous curricula.
Mostly, Matthews makes the case for using the best standard curricula and measuring sticks or rigorous high school preparation that we have- AP classes and their tests. Until we have some semblance of a national high school curricula- with consistent content and measures- we will have to turn to structures and measures like AP curricula, AP Tests, the SAT tests and the ACT.
Right now, the AP curricula and standardized tests are the only ways that we have to to consistently measure the standing of students from Portland, OR, Presque Isle, ME, Brownsville, TX and Omaha, NE.
Agreement on what high school graduates should know anyone?