How real should AP be?

Discussion in 'Secondary Education' started by Geographynut, Jul 18, 2008.

  1. Geographynut

    Geographynut Rookie

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    Jul 18, 2008

    The problem I'm having is with our administrators. We have an AP program, but I'd say it's anything but AP. Last year I taught AP U.S. History. It was my first year so I'm not expecting any miracles when we get the results back. We've had this class in my department for the past 6 years, no one has ever passed the test (highest was a 2). Apparently the teacher before me just got tired of trying!
    Our department head left at the end of last year, and I am our new dept. head. What I am seeing is that when our administrator is scheduling classes, he just labels them pre-ap or ap, and puts them in which ever teacher's schedule it fits. The majority of our teachers have not been trained to teach it. They haven't been to the institutes or at least the institute for the subject they will teach. As far as I know I am the only one who has an approved syllabus turned into the college board for an ap class. I doubt if the other teachers who are teaching classes labeled pre-ap or ap even know what the college board is. The worst part is that the administrator who does our scheduling is also our AP coordinator and the administrator in charge of our department!!
    This year he has me teaching all geography with one section of pre-ap geo. That's fine with me, but he is also going to just not have AP US History this year - why you ask? because he says it's too hard to change the schedule now!
    As the new dept. head, I don't want to make waves, however, I would like to take some steps to improve our ap program. I believe talking to him is probably the 1st step but it seems like it may turn into a huge confrontation because I've brought it up a couple of times now and he blew me off. What do you all think my next step should be?
    I know in most districts parents would have gotten involved long ago, but we are in an extremely poor area and most of our parents just kind of send their kids to us and expect us to take care of things, they just want their kids to graduate.
    By the way, our old dept. head left because he didn't like the way things were being run by the administrators, I should have seen it as a warning!
    Thanks for any input on this situation!
     
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  3. cheeryteacher

    cheeryteacher Enthusiast

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    Jul 18, 2008

    Ask if he would mind if you looked at AP programs from similar schools with better test results. He clearly doesn't care, but if you approach it as you want more people to pass so the school looks better maybe that will get his attention. Or volunteer to take on some duties in planning for AP classes, like an assistant AP coordinator.
     
  4. INteacher

    INteacher Aficionado

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    Jul 18, 2008

    wow - it sounds like a mess. I don't know what kind of trouble your school can get into for scheduling classes as AP when there is not an approved syllabus for the course from the college board. Maybe the first step is to print off the college board rules and regs for assigning the label AP to a class. The college board website has great info about the benefits of having AP classes for students and the benefits of training those teachers teaching the AP classes. I know for a long time, admin could just label classes AP, make them really hard and get students to take the AP test. Since this has changed in the past few years, maybe you AP coord is slow to catch on. I do think you need to have a scheduled sit-down with him/her about your concerns. Anytime I am worried about a meeting turning confrontational, I make a list of my concerns using the good ole I statements - "I am concerned our students are not scoring well on AP Exams. I would like to look into training for our AP teachers in my department". Good Luck - keep us posted.
     
  5. INteacher

    INteacher Aficionado

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    Jul 18, 2008

    And I didn't answer your question - AP should be VERY real!!!
     
  6. hatima

    hatima Devotee

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    Jul 18, 2008

    AP should be very real. The way I understood AP and Honors classes in High School they were "harder" because the grades were weighted and you could get some level of college bonus points or credit for them. I was in Honors English and our thought levels were expected to be higher than that in the traditional classes. I stuggled but enjoyed it. My senior year I was so stressed I dropped the Honors English and accepted Regular English credit. It lowered my GPA, but I would get the weighted credit back if I took the test. I didn't want to, much to my teachers dismay. I had a B but wasn't happy and felt I wasn't doing anywhere near a B.

    I would see about bringing some sort of training into the school to help the teachers get the kids to pass those AP tests. Maybe you could see about having the teachers observe in other AP classes to pull ideas on what it should look like. If the students taking AP are anything like the ones at my high school they will disappointed in the end since these are supposed to be college preparing courses.
     
  7. Brendan

    Brendan Fanatic

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    Jul 18, 2008

    AP should be very real. There should be reading assignments every night, you need to give kids a course calendar. You should be doing practice essays and DBQs every 2 weeks at the minimum. You should be writing outside papers at least once per semester. In regards to no one passing, the simplicity behind this is that they simply are not remembering their History, have them buy review guides or make a list of important events.
     
  8. Malcolm

    Malcolm Enthusiast

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    Jul 18, 2008

    An AP class should be the equivalent of lower division college class. AP stands for "advanced placement" you know...
     
  9. bluelightstar

    bluelightstar Companion

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    Jul 18, 2008

    Not to mention, your administrator should not just be labeling classes as AP. Courses MUST be approved by the College Board to be labeled as AP, but I'm not sure what the consequences are.
     
  10. mmswm

    mmswm Moderator

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    Jul 18, 2008

    I like the ideas of approaching the P with the "concerned about test scores" attitude. That sounds like the most productive apporach in this situation

    As to the original question, an AP class is supposed to be "college" level. Anything less than that is a sham and could probably get the school in a whole lot of trouble from the college board.
     
  11. yarnwoman

    yarnwoman Cohort

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    Jul 18, 2008

    I am taking my teacher hat off for a minute and answering this as a parent. My DD just finished 10th grade and 2 AP classes. I would have liked to have seen them be more real and wish that the teachers had been more experienced/qualified. Her Biology teacher was a DR. ___________ and noone told parents when our kids were siging up that they should have had chemistry before bio. Then the teacher spent 3/4 of the class year on bio tech as she was writing a grant to be able to teach another class at the school next year. The students never even received a practice essay before taking the AP test. In DD's AP world history class the teach spent 1/2 the year having them outline chapters using an outline from a different textbook then they were using in class, and completing group poster projects. they saw maybe two essays the whole year before the AP test. Both of these teachers were also gone a majority of the school year for various reasons.

    If it is going to be ap then it should be approved by the college board and have a good experienced teacher. Don't get me wrong these teachers in any other class would be great teachers. I just don't think they were right for these classes. This school also has a reputation of putting as many kids into ap classes as they can to try to improve their failing numbers with the state.
     
  12. Rockguykev

    Rockguykev Connoisseur

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    Jul 19, 2008

    To be successful AP classes need to be far more rigorous than lower division college classes. My college courses were a cakewalk compared to the work I had to do to pass AP tests.
     
  13. kyblue07

    kyblue07 Companion

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    Jul 19, 2008

    At my school (6-8) we have a PRE-AP Program. Last year was the first year. Do you think programs like this have a place in the middle school? It's my understanding that our Pre-AP students earn some amount of high school credit. We have set criteria for entering the program and staying in it. We've had to attend training for it and on our weekly lesson sheets that are submitted, we are required to identify what we are doing with the Pre-AP students. Our administrators keep very close eye on what we are doing and we meet regularly to discuss suggestions, immprovement, etc. Our students are required to do essay writing, inquiry projects, etc. It's not what it should be yet, but we are working on it.

    Just wondered if you guys at the high school level feel that Pre-AP programs at the middle school are worthwhile?
     
  14. bluelightstar

    bluelightstar Companion

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    Yes, I believe pre-AP programs should last from middle school up to the lower high school grades. Pre-AP students perform much better, if they were in a quality pre-AP program.
     
  15. HMM

    HMM Cohort

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    Jul 19, 2008

    That's interesting...What was your major in college?
     
  16. Mrs.SLF

    Mrs.SLF Comrade

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    Jul 20, 2008

    That is crazy that no one has ever passed that exam at your school! I took A.P. courses in high school and passed every one. In fact, my A.P. U.S. class had like a 98% passing rate. Our class was very real. We were on a 4x4 block and A.P. U.S. was the only one that went for the whole school year (so it was like 2 years of U.S. instead of one). Granted, my teacher had definitely been teaching the course for many years, she helped grade the exams each summer, and there was a very stringent set of course work that one had to complete in order to get into the class. I will say that we used college textbooks, wrote DBQ's during the summer (along with a myriad of other summer assignments) and pretty much weekly, had to write a 20 page paper during our second semester of the class (over our chosen topic-I did the civil rights movement in the south), she had Saturday sessions during the second semester leading up to the test, and always stressed not teaching to the test. She was very knowledgeable of the material and expected nothing but the best from us. She was probably the most feared teacher in the school but the best teacher I have ever had. I will never forget her telling us "to stay the course" and that "a day without notes is like a day without sunshine". What I learned in her class was invaluable and I actually felt that I could handle anything after surviving (and doing well, might I add) her course. I actually think she required more of us in her class than I was expected in most of my college courses (I was political science major with history and sociology minors). To help your students pass the test you really need someone with the experience and knowledge necessary to do the course justice.
     
  17. Geographynut

    Geographynut Rookie

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    Jul 21, 2008

    thanks for all of the advice

    you all have given me some great insight into our program. I really, really, like the idea of having the teachers observe some classes, maybe in other districts so they can see what they should be doing. I'm also going to bring up the subject again with my administrator with the "I'm concerned about the students..." idea, because, it is for them. I kind of doubt much will happen this year to change, but I know I can give them some in-services on the college board and show them where to find the information they need. I think I can also try to get them to some trainings.
    sstager - it wouldn't seem so crazy that no one has ever passed if you worked in the area I am at. Our students are 97% economically disadvantaged. Many of them don't speak english, and many more go back and forth across the border with Mexico giving them huge gaps in their education. They haven't passed any subject but spanish when it comes to AP. We always hold our breath when we get our state scores back, and those are just the basics!
    I really want to try to build-up our pre-AP program at the lower grades so that when they get to AP classes they have half a chance. I spent a lot of time teaching them how to write essays last year - they had no clue of how to do it. I gave the other teachers an in-service on it too, but they didn't use the information. I am thinking this is where I can ask the administrator to help, and make him feel like he is doing something too.
    Thanks for all of your suggestions everyone, I got some amazing ideas from you!
     
  18. Mrs.SLF

    Mrs.SLF Comrade

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    Jul 21, 2008

    Sorry. It only seemed crazy to me because of the passing rate my school had but we were in a suburban area with very few disadvantaged students. I think my school did so well because of the breadth of knowledge my teacher had (she had been seriously teaching the class for a long time before I got to her class). I completely understand the challenges of working in a disadvantaged school (my school is title 1 with 99% qualifying for free or reduced lunch) and I wish you all the luck in the world with this program because I truly enjoyed it in high school and felt prepared for college (please disregard my run-on sentence).
     

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