Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Evils of AP

A lesson in Advanced mis-Placement - this is worth an entire read, but it's not new to me. I saw this over a decade ago where I used to work. We were told by admins (and it's always "told" and never actually put into writing --can't leave a nasty paper trail) to identify students for placement into AP classes. This was a terrible deal for me, because it meant that I lost my best and brightest students to a program that was generally taught by someone with less actual field knowledge than me. But worse than that, students didn't want to go to the AP class because --and here's the fun part --they knew that AP isn't always good prep for college! Yes, there are good AP instructors out there, but not nearly as many as AP instructors think. Some students deliberately avoided AP because it would ruin their GPAs. Even more twisted, the ones who were in the AP sections getting A's were scoring 2's and 3's on the actual AP when they bothered to take it --because their own AP instructors discouraged them from taking the exam on the grounds that "minorities never get a fair shake on the APs."

So why even bother? First, it's a boondoggle for AP instructors, who get to have comparatively well-behaved students for most of their sections. They get a stipend for their trouble. And they can lord it over their colleagues that they get to teach AP. Second, it's a boondoggle for admins that get to pad their campus stats sheet (except for that pesky pass/fail number). And did I forget to mention that campuses get stipends based on AP enrollment? That's the part that's going on in the article. Admins get the credit for spiking AP enrollment and increasing campus funds (which are almost never spent on AP students, natch), while AP instructors get the heat for not doing a good job with students who have no business being there in the first place.

Full disclosure: I was, at one time, certified to teach AP U.S. History. I also work for a college system that heavily emphasizes and benefits from dual-credit classes which compete with AP courses for enrollment. But many of the same complaints apply there as well. Commonality: you tell the admins that their campuses will get money for doing a certain thing, and everything else goes out the door. I've seen it too many times.

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