Over a decade, the number of A.P. exams taken by American high school students has more than doubled, to 3.1 million in 2010 from 1.2 million in 2000.
But the failure rate is also higher on A.P. exams, which are graded on a scale of 1 to 5. The proportion of exams earning low scores of 1 or 2 rose to 42.5 percent in 2010, up from 36.4 percent in 2000.
Nationwide, Almost 50% Of Students Fail A.P. Exams
In other words, almost half of the students taking an A.P. exam failed to pass the test: a score of 3 is considered just passing, while a score of 1 or 2 is considered failing.
What’s Going On Here?
From The New York Times:
Trevor Packer, a College Board vice president, said his organization was wrestling with whether access to A.P. should be expanded even if that meant more students failed. For now, the proportion of low scorers is “tolerable,” he said.
Mr. Packer spent a recent week visiting A.P. classes in low-income schools in California, where, he said, he found the level of instruction surprisingly high and students well motivated.
“It was also clear that many students were being placed in A.P. who didn’t have the preparation,” he said. But the California principals argued that even students who score poorly in A.P. were better off than if they had taken only standard coursework, Mr. Packer said.
Bruce Orr, the principal of Lakeside High School, in Hot Springs, Ark., agreed. Mr. Orr’s students took 297 A.P. exams last year — eight times as many as in 2004.
“It’s about adding rigor,” Mr. Orr said about his campaign to increase A.P. enrollments.
Across Arkansas, the number of A.P. exams has nearly sextupled since 2000. The proportion of Arkansas students who score a 1 or 2 has surged, too, and is now the nation’s highest: 70 percent in 2010.
In Arkansas, 70% Of Students Failed A.P. Exams
What? Almost three-quarters of the students who took an A.P. test failed it? And that’s just fine because just being in a rigorous course environment is good for the students? I’m wondering if these administrators have asked the students how they feel about failing?
Push To Start Taking A.P. Exams As Sophomores
The push to take more and more A.P. tests, at an ever earlier age, has been going on for a while now. When I taught at a high school in Rockville, Maryland,a few years ago, students began taking these tests as sophomores, usually starting with A.P. European History, considered to be one of the toughest. The idea was to take two a year, for three years.
Parents and counselors both encouraged my high school students to puruse this path, to look good on college applications, and to allow them to skip some beginning college courses. By age 15, many of my students were permanently exhausted, trying to keep up.
A.P. Classes For All?
Junia Yearwood, a retired English teacher, wrote a heartfelt op-ed piece in the Boston Globe this week:
For the four years I taught the AP English and composition course at English High, many of my students were victims of the AP mania that had invaded the system. Suddenly, officials had recognized the dearth of faces of color in AP classes and the drive to augment the AP minority population went into high gear.
The College Board and sympathetic philanthropic rescuers rushed in to solve the problem by dangling the carrot of grant money, and the feeding frenzy was on. AP classes sprouted and multiplied across all disciplines. AP scouts scoured students’ report cards hunting for qualifying scores; teacher recommendations were solicited for students with the “potential’’ to do AP work, and the nominees were summarily conscripted.
Even though students had marked deficiencies in basic reading and writing skills, and little desire to work hard, and even though they made repeated requests for transfers, the dragooning of students into my AP course persisted.
She goes on to recount her frustration at letting school officials know that many of her students were not ready for the class, and not being listened to, because the adminstrators were fixated on having their numbers look good.
Forced To Teach Basic English Grammar In An A.P. Class
As a result, she was forced to teach students basic English grammar in her A.P. class, simply because they had never learned it before.
Forcing ill-prepared students into A.P. classes makes a mockery of the ideals of education, and it may well turn those students off learning forever.
We need to stop this madness.
Photo Credit: hoyasmeg via Creative Commons