As I discussed on a previous post, I have been having a difficult time watching my students deal with their heavy academic loads. In a demographic that is used to getting A’s, I have only 15 – that’s out of 125 students. Some are looking at B’s for the first time in their lives.
This lead to several great comments and some further reading. The articles posted by Joel at his Gifted Education Blog are interesting and show that the Advanced Placement program as a whole has its flaws. On one hand it appears that the Collegeboard (a private company) has capitalized on the demand for AP classes and has continuously expanded its offerings – to the point that some colleges are changing how that view AP exams. Throw on top of that the study that says performance in AP classes does not correspond to success in college, but that success on the AP exam does correlate. Confusing, right? So taking the test is important, the class – not so much. Comforting.
I certainly think that part of the problem is that there have been few regulations as to what makes up an AP class. I do know of a specific example of a class with an AP designation being significantly easier then the college prep versions of the class at the same school. This went on for years. No doubt it was part a school administration issue, but it was also a Collegeboard issue. I have recently learned that there is a program currently being created to accredit every AP class at every school. While the review process is weak (a teacher must submit a syllabus and sample lesson), it is a start.
In the end, minus any serious national education reform that addresses high achievers (as opposed to NCLB which really focuses on underachievement), Advancement Placement is the current reality. I am trying to teach my class in a way that not only covers the content, but also focuses on important skills. I already spend a considerable amount of time on the skills needed to do well in the class, on the exam, and in future classes. Reading for understanding, note taking, document analysis, and writing are vital skills for any college student. I know that if had a class like the one I am teaching; my first couple quarters in college would have been significantly easier.
So, my poor students, the class will get easier as you get better at the skills needed to succeed, but the pace has to continue. We will not slow down even if there is a fire that shuts down the school for a week (two years ago) or a strike (November?). Everyone you are competing with (in the U.S. at least) is going through the same type of experience. You just have to learn to manage your time and prioritize your life. You fit in what you can and cut what you must. Life is a giant balancing act, welcome to the game.