As the bell rings, the door shuts with an ominous thud.  Twenty-five students sit in their seats, fresh school supplies beside them. A thick packet of papers lands on the desk before them: a syllabus outlining expectations for the coming year.  It is the first day of school, and already students within the class dread the coming weeks of Advanced Placement courses, especially those who chose not to complete the summer assignment.

With no test to gauge preparedness for advanced courses, students self-determine if they are ready to handle heavy work loads and difficult lessons.  Paired with the newly instated class size amendment, the policy of not filtering AP candidates creates a disastrous combination.  Teens not only poorly determine their readiness, but they also are now unable to switch out of the class if it becomes too difficult.  Allowing free-for-all registration sets students up for failure if they are ill-prepared and results in a lower overall pass rate come exam time in May.

This past registration marks the second consecutive year that students have not needed to meet testing requirements prior to signing up for an AP course.  In past years those wishing to register for classes like AP United States History used PSAT scores to predict the chance of one passing.  After looking at one’s scores in reading, mathematics, and writing, the service would determine whether or not one was likely to pass the exam.  In addition to analyzing their scores, teachers also required students to write essays and complete an application when registering for select AP courses.  In recent years, however, students only needed current teacher approval and the desire to take an AP course; and even then, strong student or parent opinions could override a teacher’s declination.

This revision to the registration process presented issues during the following year.  Often those students who may have been filtered out through the old system become lost or disillusioned in AP courses which are fast paced, work-heavy and often stress latent.  By not filtering these borderline students, the system is setting them up for failure when the teens could have performed adequately—if not well—in the honors equivalent.  Not surprisingly, the year Boone stopped filtering AP candidates, its pass rate decreased seven percent.

The consequences of a student’s misjudgment can range from damaging their GPA and self-esteem to also negatively impacting the learning environment of their peers.  By flooding high-level classes with inadequately prepared students, a great burden is placed upon teachers to prepare students that realistically are not likely to pass.

Subsequently, instead of cultivating an attitude of success and doling out equal attention to each student, the teacher will most likely focus on making sure the lower-level students do not fail the class.  This places undue stress on teachers and takes away instruction time from students who truly stand a chance of passing, which should be the teacher’s primary goal.

Ultimately, AP courses come down to the final exam in May.  Judged on one’s comprehension of material and caliber of work, the exam determines how well one grasped the subject and how much college credit, if any, the student will receive.  If one test is the ultimate judge of performance, the school should not shirk from the idea of judging AP candidates based on scores and student essays.  Filtering students from the beginning will only help ensure a quality learning environment as well as a higher overall course pass rate.

Currently there are two arguments for not limiting AP enrollment.  The school wishes to open more challenging courses to all teens as college applications become increasingly competitive, and having more teens in AP classes—regardless of whether those students have A’s or F’s—boosts the school grade according to state policy.  AP enrollment alone is worth 200 points in the grading process. This latter argument makes schools seem as if they are motivated
by their appearance rather than the success of their students.  Putting the school’s desires before student needs is not only ethically flawed but is also ignoring the fundamental purpose of school: to create successful students and cultivate future leaders.

The state’s policy of raising a school’s grade based on the number of AP students who take and complete a course is great conceptually, but creates unintended consequences.  It encourages schools to allow as many students as possible to enroll in these challenging courses, regardless of whether or not they are fully prepared to take them.  This oversight negatively impacts students by creating a less challenging classroom environment and by placing more stress on students to take AP classes regardless of one’s ability.

Time shows exactly how damaging the policy is.  In 2001, the on-campus pass rate was 69 percent.  In four years this number dropped two percent, and then in five more years nine percent.

The county and state numbers read similarly and are further proof of the damage open registration can inflict.  Last year, the county-wide pass rate was 41.3 percent, a mere 0.2 percent above the state average.  In stark contrast, however, the national average sat at 55.7 percent, which is 14.4 percent above the county equivalent.

When comparing the number of tests administered to the pass rate, one
can visibly notice the almost exponential growth coinciding with the declination in passing scores.  From 2006 to
2007 alone, AP participation in
Orange County experienced a 1,204 percent increase.

If the logistics involved in changing this state policy are too grandiose,
at the very least our school can actively seek to operate with higher standards.  Being motivated by student success will not only create better students, but will also produce a stronger
school academically in the long run.  Filtering AP classes is the easiest method to ensuring better classroom performance and preparedness; and in time, this too will positively impact the school’s grade.

By admin

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