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I believe every student benefits from classes that are challenging. Our AP Studio Art classes are the only AP class that some of our students feel confident to enroll in. It was a struggle this year to convince one student failing our state exam. required for graduation, to submit her work for the AP Studio Art exam. Happily her peers continued to encourage her, I just received her score of a 4. I am so proud of her.
However, my state is now using the number of students passing AP courses as part of our school grade. Will we be pressured from accepting all students wanting to take the class to those sure to pass?
If a high school student is capable of completing college level work in an AP class, the experience in that class is invaluable for that student in their future endevours. But the concern is with less capable or less motivated students enrolled in these classes, are the grades [and also their AP scores] comparable to the equivalent college scores? Many students assume that if they complete an AP course, they deserve [or are unwilling to accept anything less than] an A or a B grade. In many cases, completion of the class is affording the student bonus points in the college admissions process, yet is does not always interpret itself into a better, college-ready student.
In my state students sometimes take AP courses just to improve their GPA-they are weighted on a 6-point scale instead of the normal 4-point scale. Then, they don't take the AP exam. I think that if they are going to get extra credit for taking the course they should be required to take the exam--to at least attempt it. Then the AP courses at each school could be fairly evaluated and compared from school to school.
It is interesting that many people feel that AP Courses are designed only to pass the AP exam. The skills that you learn in the AP classroom are the skills that all students should learn to be better thinkers and therefore better informed citizens. The test simply evaluates how well you have honed those skills in a particular area ie... writing, science, etc. I agree that every class should be challenging and teaching these skills, but they are not. Until they do, AP courses should be available to any student who wants to challenge themselves.
Instead of allowing all students into AP courses why not raise the rigor in the regular courses. AP classes are geared towards passing the test, which I believe is a flaw btw, and not at all whay I feel real AP courses should be. So, I solved my problem with that by simply raising the standards high in the non-AP courses I have. I believe, but don't yet have the stats, students from either level would have an equal chance of passing "THAT" test.
In my school all students have the option to take a course at the AP level. However, there is one problem in these tough economic times. Those students who decided they don't want to continue at the level are allowed to drop to a lower level which fills those classes to the max. The schools can not afford to start those lower level classes at a level that those not max out the class when students down track.
I think that any time a student spends in an AP level class is time well spent to challenge that student.