Letter: Dubious merit of some AP classes
Norm Bolitho wrote a rebuttal to my guest opinion and shared his son’s Advanced Placement experience. His son willingly chose to take AP classes, took some good ones and had a pleasant outcome. Actually, that was kind of the point in my editorial: If kids are allowed to “choose” their academic path, it will be successful.
However, when our local high schools require students to take AP classes and principals coerce students and their parents, that is likely to have a negative outcome. It costs about $100 per student to sign up for one AP class, plus the tens of thousands of dollars to train and pay teachers to teach. The program at Glenwood High garnered about a 40 percent failure rate, according to numbers published in the PI.
I wrote about the lack of choices for high school students. There is little dialogue with students to see what they want to accomplish during high school. We need lots of hands-on “shop” classes where non-college bound students can train for lucrative trades. We need more students attending CMC classes, where they can gain authentic college-level academic experience for a flat rate of under $180 per class.
AP classes will always have a place in high schools. An AP chemistry class with interesting lab work or an AP art class could benefit kids. But other teach-to-the-test, canned-curriculum AP classes are of dubious merit.
There is research about how AP often doesn’t guarantee college preparedness. Schools like MIT, Harvard and Dartmouth have studied this, just Google it. Since my editorial was published, I have heard from many parents and teachers thanking me for speaking the truth about this issue. Sadly, teachers still feel that they cannot speak their minds in the Roaring Fork School District, and that is a huge barrier for improving our schools. Hopefully some of them will be brave and step forward to offer their own critiques of the system.
Why doesn’t the district put more emphasis on creating alternative learning opportunities for our kids? That’s simple: Just read the Dec. 19 PI story about the Roaring Fork School District winning an AP award for increasing participation in that program. This is just another example of the district “winning” one of those no-context, sound-bite posters that get plastered on the front of schools. Sadly, nobody gives awards for schools that create shop programs, increase community college participation and nurture happy life-long learners.
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