Should AP classes be taught in HS?

Discussion in 'High School' started by HMM, Mar 9, 2008.

  1. HMM

    HMM Cohort

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    I'm just going to focus on mathematics since that is what I know. I really don't know what an AP class in any other subject would look like.

    I teach a Calculus 1 class every fall. I ask every semester how many had taken AP calculus in HS. A vast majority respond that they had. so...the semester starts and I find out very quickly (every semester) that

    1) many of the students know very little trigonometry

    2) their algebra skills are very weak.

    3) they don't remember how to take a limit.

    4) they DO know how to take a derivative (for the most part) using the formulas (product rule, quotient rule, ect), but if you ask them to take the derivative using the definition of a derivative most of them have a difficult time.

    some can't even tell me what f(x+h) is if I give them a simple function.

    ex. f(x)=x^2+x+1 then f(x+h)=(x+h)^2+x+h+1

    Wouldn't it be better for most student to master algebra/trig before they take on calculus?

    I extend this to all subjects. Are we helping or hurting students by offering AP classes in HS?
     
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  3. cutNglue

    cutNglue Magnifico

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    I don't have a clue but interestingly I took high school physics at my mother's insistence (her motto, if you can pass physics..you can pass college) but no one bothered to tell me there was advanced math concepts needed for that class and at the same time I was enrolled in that course I was enrolled in Algebra 2 and frankly I stunk at it as well.

    So maybe it isn't the courses but rather in how they are approached, recommended and placed.
     
  4. Brendan

    Brendan Fanatic

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    I think it all depends on the teacher and how well the teacher actually taught the class. From what I have found from my AP History course I teach (US History and European History) it is very helpful, the kids get the stuff and the skills, but in math I do see your point as everything is more cummulative.
     
  5. scienceteach82

    scienceteach82 Cohort

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    I think it depends. I took AP Biology, AP European History, and AP Literature. All benefited me tremendously in college. The school I am at now has 2 AP courses. Unfortunately, most of the students that are taking them are not doing well. It is not from the teaching, it is lack of motivation. Most of the teachers at my school are fed up with this 'not caring' attitude that has consumed most of the students.
    It is true that many forget how to do certain things, but those who have done well can greatly benefit from the AP class before going to college.
     
  6. Missy

    Missy Aficionado

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    Do they need a certain score on the AP exam to get into your class? My daughter took AP Calc in HS and has breezed through her first two quarters of college calc at Ohio State.
     
  7. HMM

    HMM Cohort

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    I usually have 20 students..about 17-18 took calculus in HS and about half of those were classified as AP, but only around 3 or 4 attempt the AP exam. If they had passed the exam they wouldn't be in the class. I think they need a 4 or 5 on the exam for it to count.

    I also get students that are upset that they have to take calculus. They feel that since they took it in HS that they shouldn't have to take it in college (even though they didn't take the exam or they didn't pass it). They think they know it all. They find out after the first exam that they don't.
     
  8. cutNglue

    cutNglue Magnifico

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    It's funny that this thread should come up today.

    I just got placement suggestions for next year for my middle school child.

    They suggest he be placed in honors math. He's making a D this year in Honor's math. Why do they think he needs another year at this sinking level?

    Let's move on to being recommended for Honor's Language Arts. I grant that the child is a very creative writer. That's because he's been writing the same story (different chapters) since the first grade. I'm extremely proud of him for that. If you, however, read any other writing of his you will note a massive amount of spelling and grammatical errors. This is the child you want placed in HONOR's language arts. He does need some creative outlets similar and different strategies to bring out his hidden talent but get the basics in first!!
     
  9. chemteach55

    chemteach55 Connoisseur

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    I teach regular physics and chemistry. We dropped our AP courses in those subjects many years ago for several reasons. The cost of the labs for these classes is extreme, the students do not end up taking the AP exams because they think it will look bad if they do not get the 4 or 5 needed for the credit, and very few students were taking them because they were harder than the honors class. Our local college gives their own test to pass out of these classes which is much easier than the AP exam and they can take this without the AP course and are very likely to pass it. The students who would be likely to take the AP courses in math and science are usually looking for degrees that have some sort of math or science and they are urged not to skip these courses once in college by the local colleges. We do still have AP history and english courses.
     
  10. Brendan

    Brendan Fanatic

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    We require all students to take the AP exam if they take an AP course. If they do not take the AP exam they have to take the final exam for that course.
     
  11. Missy

    Missy Aficionado

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    I guess I'm lucky my kids went to a great district; everyone took the AP exams if they took AP classes (and they offer a lot), and at least half scored 4 or 5 and received college credit.
     
  12. JoshCHT

    JoshCHT Rookie

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    I took AP Calculus in high school but did not take the exam and I'm not sure that I was all that prepared for Calculus 1 in college either.

    I took algebra 1-3, geometry, pre-calculus, probability and statistics, and AP Calculus in HS.

    I had a really good algebra and trig background in high school though. I took pre-calculus algebra and trigonometry in college and got an A without studying because I had already had all of it. I don't think I needed to take the course but I wanted to take it while I took Chemistry.

    It was much harder for me to understand limits when I was in high school than it was for me to understand them in college. My high school calculus teacher did make us take derivatives using the definition most of the time rather than using the formula's so I didn't have any trouble with that. We also barely got into integrals.

    I think there are several things at play. I think many high school students (certainly not all) may not be developmentally ready for a subject like calculus. And like you said some of them may not have mastered algebra and trig. And it also depends on how the teachers teach the course. Some high school teachers simply show the students how to do the problems and don't explain the concepts or derive formulas or do the proofs.

    I also think a lot of students struggle a bit with college because its not only at a higher level than college but it goes a lot faster and covers a lot more content per semester. Students often don't study enough or correctly either.

    They also get intimidated. For instance I never had a problem with trig or the transcendental functions in high school or pre-cal in college but when it came to using these functions in Calculus I and II , I did have some problems. I got B's in those courses.

    However, as a high school math teacher now, I have noticed that many students (including the better students) have a lot of trouble with basic math skills such as operations with fractions.

    In my area, students use to only have to take 3 math courses and now they have to take 4.

    So now there are many more students taking pre-cal including students who are not very good at math.
     
  13. Brendan

    Brendan Fanatic

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    We only have about 16 kids taking AP Cal each year; the rest of the Honors track math kids just take Calculus Honors. From what I hear this is the hardest course in the school. I would have never even though about taking it back in the day. I am the SS dept. chair, long story but I am certified to teach High School/Middle School Math (all courses), along with 6-12 Social Studies and English.
     
  14. jbj913

    jbj913 Rookie

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    I believe AP should be taught in high school, but beginning at the 10th grade. It also should include students who CAN handle the AP curriculum.
    My district and AP/College Board say ANYONE can take AP and should be allowed to take it if they selected it. That I totally disagree with. I know students in AP who have low reading and math scores, yet sign up (or get pressured to sign up) for AP and do poorly.
    It's mostly about money. The more students take it, the more money for College Board and the district.
    In my district, the AP exam is paid for if the student takes the class and takes the exam. If the student does not take the exam, he/she must pay for the exam fee.
    High school students are more prepared for the rigors of AP in 10th grade. Unfortunately, middle school students are recruited or allowed to sign up for AP World History which is very intensive, especially if they are not given any background.
     
  15. HMM

    HMM Cohort

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    This just seems crazy. Are the classes really at the college level? If they are I question what they are teaching at college. :confused:

    I only took one history class in HS (junior year) and that was a long time ago so I don't remember what all I had to do in the class. Also, I didn't have a history class in college. Is it all just memorization? :confused:
     
  16. Brendan

    Brendan Fanatic

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    I know AP US is equivalent to a frehsman Survey in US History class as I have once taught that course (when I was getting my masters.
     
  17. OrangeBlossum

    OrangeBlossum Rookie

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    I have often steered 9th graders away from taking the 10th grade WHAP. It is college level. It is a serious amount of work. I know I would not have been ready for it in 10th grade.

    While it does involve a great deal of memorizaiton, I would say the application level of an AP history class is thorough. Taking a look at revolutions throughout time is an example... how the cycles occur, the types of people involved, the cause/effect.
     
  18. jbj913

    jbj913 Rookie

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    It's all relative. The teacher could be a nutcase or clueless on how to teach an AP level course. But yes, they should be at the college level. And yes, some colleges may be lax on how they teach their lower-level survey courses. I know of profs who teach a World Civ course, but will only concentrate on a specific area of world history, especially an area they are quite familiar with.
    Some universities will only grant college credit if they earn a 5. Most accept a 3 for credit.
    College history courses involve more than memorization. It's like AP. More analysis and evaluation. Take what you know and apply it.
    For example:
    Regular World History: What was the Treaty of Westphalia? It granted Holy Roman Empire states freedom to choose Lutheranism or Catholicism.
    Honors WOH: Did the Treaty of West. weaken the Holy Roman Empire? Explain.
    AP WOH: Explain how the Treaty of West. (1648) attributed to German unification in the 19th century.
     
  19. Danny'sNanny

    Danny'sNanny Connoisseur

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    My AP english classes in HS were harder than ANY of the English classes I've taken in college. I signed up for the English exam, but ended up not taking it- after I found out that education majors couldn't use AP credit for English at the school I was going to.

    My AP US history was about the same level as the college history classes I've taken. I only got a 3 (very disappointing, it was a bad week, oh well), but I still got 6 college credits for it. WooHoo! Except for I love history, so I ended up taking more than I needed anyway...

    My HS did stop offering AP Calculus my freshman year. After that, they encouraged students to just take in concurrently at the university. The district paid for us to take college courses, so the school figured it was better to just take the class at the college than try to take the AP exam
     
  20. yorkyfan

    yorkyfan Rookie

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    My son took several APs in high school and was required to take the exams. He got C+/B grades in his APs but scored 4 and 5s on the exams. He worked very hard in high school and now, because of those APs, he feels college is much easier than high school. And he got lots of college credit from the APs. (which will save us tuition money- woo!hoo!)
    So I feel the AP program was a tremendous benefit for him. He is well prepared for the rigors of college classes. His high school classmates who attended the same university and only took regular ed classes are really struggling. One has already dropped out. The regular ed classes simply did not prepare them for college.
     
  21. Danny'sNanny

    Danny'sNanny Connoisseur

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    I do wish my HS had encouraged us more in taking the exams.

    Only 2 of us took the AP US History, and I think maybe 1 or 2 people took English...I don't think anyone took any of the sciences...

    So we had a good program, but no one took advantage of the exams. Which kind of ruins the point.

    I do think the cost of the exams was a deterrent for a lot of students.
     
  22. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    I do think that AP classes should be offered in high school, because there is a large number of students for whom that sort of rigorous curriculum is appropriate.

    I also believe that students should be screened prior to enrolling in an AP course. They should meet certain prerequisite requirements, such as an A or B in the previous year's course (i.e. an A or B in English III before being allowed to enroll in English IV AP). The student should be recommended by his or her previous teacher, as well.

    We're going to offer Latin IV AP next year, the first year we've done that. (We're a new school with a slightly newer Latin program. Students who took Latin the first year it was offered are currently in Latin III.) I know that my current students will be up for the challenge. But I definitely would NOT want students at other, lower levels of Latin attempting to enroll in the AP course. AP Latin is the single most difficult AP course I've ever seen. It's much, much, much more difficult than any college-level or grad-level Latin course I took, and I took some doozeys.

    Students should be aware that AP courses are on par with college courses and the demands in such courses are rigorous. Students who can't hack it are better off in a regular version of the course, in which they are more likely to receive a passing grade and understand the content. There's no shame in taking regular English instead of AP English if it means that you'll understand it better and get a better grade.
     
  23. HMM

    HMM Cohort

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    I was actually typing something similar to this when I got an e-mail notice of your reply. I am now convince that the AP classes should be offered, but that the students need to be properly guided into the class that is right for them. Especially in mathematics where everything builds upon itself there needs to be a mechanism in place to ensure that the students are taking the appropriate level for them.

    Thank you all for your replies.:2up:
     
  24. Enigma_X

    Enigma_X Rookie

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    Frankly, I think the problem has less to do with AP classes than with generally low standards. The AP kids are, for the most part, the best we've got. If they aren't up to standard, there is a big problem, because the non-AP kids are even lower.

    At my school, freshmen and sophomores take what are called pre-AP classes, then AP as junior and seniors. I'm not really sure what the difference is, other than that only the AP students have to take the AP test. I expect I'll learn more about it next year, as I've been penciled in to take over the pre-AP classes in my subject area.
     
  25. teresa

    teresa New Member

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    Hi:

    This conversation is interesting because I just was speaking about it with some of my colleagues. Our thoughts were that we should emphasize deep knowledge instead of broad knowledge.

    Kids need to be able to deeply understand Algebra and Geometry before going to Calculus and some teachers think that they don't need Calculus at all in high school, that is a subject for college.

    I teach math and enjoy it, so I think that Calculus should be taught in High School, (maybe as a workshop of some short) but I thought that their idea was interesting
     
  26. bluelightstar

    bluelightstar Companion

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    I think AP courses, except maybe social studies, need to be handled on a track with students taking pre-AP from the time they enter high school.

    For example, our advanced math students take pre-AP Algebra in middle school. In 9th grade, they have pre-AP Geometry; 10th is pre-AP Algebra II; and 11th grade is pre-AP Trig and Pre-Cal. By the time the students reach 12th grade and our AP Calculus teacher, they are well-prepared. Last year, every student passed the AP Calculus exam.

    The same applies for English. Students need to be on a track throughout high school emphasizing the critical thinking and analytical skills necessary for AP English success. It's the reason we do not offer AP English Language classes. As far as science, it's a bit more difficult, which is why only about half of my students passed the AP Bio exam last year.

    Our school is consistently recognized for APs, and I'm glad we offer them to our students.
     
  27. Kangaroo22

    Kangaroo22 Virtuoso

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    I took AP Calculus in high school and it was great for me, because I was a childhood education student with a math concentration so I needed to take a lot of higher level math and calculus is a prerequisite for a lot of college classes and it was something I already had out of the way before I started college. Also, the first semester of my freshmen year I took Calculus II and the first half of the course we learned material that I had learned in AP Calculus, because my AP teacher had taught us a lot more information than she really needed to and everyone (or close to everyone) took the AP tests for the AP classes that they were enrolled in.

    We had to be recommended for AP classes by our teachers; every year we had a sheet that all of our teacher had to sign recommending you for whichever class they thought you should take the next year and if you wanted to take a class harder than the one they recommended you had to petition and a lot of times that wouldn't even work. Which I think is a good thing, because a lot of high schoolers aren't ready for college level work.
     
  28. Mr. V

    Mr. V Rookie

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    Seems like everyone here is just talking about whether AP classes are useful for the students that take them, or whether they truly prepare students for college. In my mind the major downside of AP is not what it does or does not do for the AP students, it's what it does to the other students.

    I teach in the social sciences, and I incorporate a lot of tasks that allow the student to learn from each other--basic group work to more elaborate projects. The "AP level" kids are valuable in my classroom because they bring the level of education up for all students. All students are able to experience, and often participate in, higher level discussions and concepts that are made possible by the presence of 3-4 AP level kids who can take us to that level.

    Take those 3-4 kids out of my class, and you've seriously disadvantaged everyone else. AP classes might seem stimulating for a few students, but if you look at education as a whole, as a means of educating ALL students to as high a level as possible, AP, I believe, has a net negative effect.

    You might say that this is not fair for the AP kids, who don't get the chance to shine in a class made up of other high level peer, but the truth is those AP kids are probably the same ones who will be going into 4 year colleges and getting their chance to shine then. Why not use their talents at the high school level to benefit all the students, not just the AP ones?
     
  29. MissFrizzle

    MissFrizzle Virtuoso

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    Very well stated. :2up:
     
  30. INteacher

    INteacher Aficionado

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    My state has changed requirements for an academic diploma. In order for students to recieve an academic diploma, they must take 2 AP classes. All teachers in my building have must attend training and of course have approval of their syllabus by the college board to teach an AP course.

    I throughly disagree with the social studies part of this statement.

    OVer 2/3 of the AP History exam is made up of a writing element in which it is necessary to use critical thinking and analytical writing skills. I would guess that I spend at least as much time teaching writing skills to my AP History students as I do history.

    There is a lot more going on in AP classes than just learning the subject matter - organizational skills that are invaulable to college bound students, time management skills, independent learning, accountability for their learning and many others that I really can't think of right now :)
     
  31. HMM

    HMM Cohort

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    is an 'academic' diploma a special diploma?

    if not...

    :down:

    That is a bad idea. There is a reason it is called HS and not college.
     
  32. INteacher

    INteacher Aficionado

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    Yes - it requires 4 yrs of math, science and of course english; 3 yrs foreign language, 2 AP classes, and all the classes are ranked as academic. They must maintain at least at 3.0 overall gpa and never recieve less than a C- in any class. When students recieve an acaemdic diploma, they are automatically admitted into state universites, recieve $100 and a special diploma. Students also recieve an Academic letter for a letterman's jacket with chevrons for each year they continue in the academic honors program. It is designed to challenge students and prepare students for college.
     
  33. ecteacher

    ecteacher Rookie

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    I took AP U.S. History and AP European History in HS; some of it was memorization of dates/events, but we also wrote analytical essays which discussed historical events or figures. There is more of an emphasis on analysis versus stating facts in the essays. Also we covered culture of various time periods. We had some activities which were fun (for me at least, I am a huge history buff though). We did a mock trial of a historical figure in AP Euro, and did a lot of activities in which we presented samples of art/humanities/music etc. from different historical eras. I think the AP classes were, to some degree, harder than some of the history/humanities classes I took in college. So I would say the classes prepared me fairly well for academia...
     
  34. HMM

    HMM Cohort

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    Isn't that just taking memorized dates/events and putting them in paragraph form. You really can't derive anything in history, you can only speculate given the facts at hand. I'm not saying it is a bad thing to do mind you. If it gets people thinking that's good.
     
  35. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    Mar 17, 2008

    As jbj913 has already noted, there's a very great deal more to history than rote memorization. One doesn't memorize the times tables simply to memorize the times tables: one memorizes them because they reveal patterns through which larger numbers and more complex operations can be comprehended. Similarly, the study of historical events reveals patterns. For example, Henry VIII of England launched the Anglican Church for reasons including his need for a son and heir, and he needed the son and heir because he knew very well that when a king dies with no heir to succeed him, all Hades tends to break loose: history had taught him that. Similarly, one can examine the Bill of Rights and see how history has shaped it, from the Magna Carta and the Reformation through Enlightenment thought to the causes and events of the American Revolution, and one can also see how it has shaped history.
     
  36. Brendan

    Brendan Fanatic

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    Not exactly. Honestly, dates don't even matter to me.
     
  37. sophist42

    sophist42 New Member

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    Mar 17, 2008

    AP classes have become part of the college process...

    This reply might seem a bit tangential and pragmatic, but no one else has touched on it, so I will make this point: AP tests have become part of the admission process to most top-tier colleges and universities.

    Of course, it's not supposed to be that way, and the College Board will tell you so if you ask them. But the fact is that colleges get so many applications these days that they have to find more and more ways to differentiate between candidates. AP courses, and test scores, have become another metric used in the process.

    We've had this sort of discussion at the school where I work, but I think that several of our top administrators might be loathe to abandon the AP program if they thought it might put our students at even the slightest possible competitive disadvantage with our peer schools. I work at a private school, so maybe that's not as much of an issue in the public school sector.

    And maybe it's just a case of nomenclature... if we didn't teach AP courses, then we would probably just have "advanced" courses, and colleges would use them as proxies for the old AP courses.

    Roger

     
  38. pdflbhs

    pdflbhs New Member

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    Mar 20, 2008

    APCalc

    In my school all students enrolled in AP courses must take the exam. And as an APCalc teacher, I agree with all the weaknesses you point out. We are trying to address these issues in our Honors Precalc class, which feeds our AP class, but the fly in the ointment is a district policy of self-selection. So we do wind up with students whose skills are not what t hey should be. I can usually predict by October what the AP results will be in May.

    All this having been said, I still think we should be teaching it in HS. You are undoubtedly winding up with the weaker students. We have many who learn the material very well, and move on to second semester calc in college. Many have come back to say that what they learned in HS was put to good use in college.
     

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