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Saturday, October 29, 2011

Getting Carried Away with AP?

 I have lots of public school kids in my family to compare with my own and for a while there I was pretty nervous about the sheer number of AP Classes these kids were taking, that mine weren't.  It seemed to me that my kids might be behind the ball and unable to compete for a place in a good college.

I can see now that the stress was unfounded because as homeschoolers there are ways to stand out
besides taking courses that require more than a reasonable amount of effort.

Students taking one or two of these classes quickly find the work load is barely manageable. I can’t even imagine the type of stress that someone taking six to seven AP classes would endure, especially during a senior year, filled with  college applications and the stress of waiting for acceptance letters. This kind of stress isn’t good for teenagers and will eventually be reflected in their grades.

 Why in the world would someone need so many AP Classes? Upon entering college and being given credit for AP Classes taken, one relative reported that she had taken more AP Classes than her end-point college could give her credit for.  For example, two of the AP English classes she took was a substitute for the same college class.  She she dealt with all that extra work, and did not even get the deserved credit for it.

In talking to another homeschool parent recently, we touched on what AP classes (or CLEP or SAT 2) to prove to top colleges the child's worth.  I shared that in my opinion, no more than 4 AP classes were really necessary, all which could be taken in the Sophomore and Jr. year.  I also cautioned on studying for an AP exam before the child was ready.  I mentioned that when I was in high school, I took Regents (NY) Chemistry, before taking AP Chemistry, and it was still a challenge, so the first time the child approaches a subject, it probably should not be AP.  Take regular Algebra before College Algebra, take US History at a high school level before approaching AP US History. It just seemed like common sense to me. I also believe that the child should only take AP Classes in areas where there is a serious interest or talent.  The point is to show off the child's strong points, not display their weaknesses. 

In the meantime, I am seeing more and more high schools pile on AP classes for kids who are not ready for the subject, and then blame the child for not passing.  In addition, I have seen kids thrown into classes that dictate prerequisites before the prerequisites are met.  This borders on abusive.  This is not only damaging to the kids who are being pushed to far too fast, but also to the kids who are in these top AP and Honors classes because they are ready for the work:

"Karen Colburn, who has a seventh-grader at Central Middle School in Edgewater, said her advanced-track son found himself in mixed math and English classes slowed to a crawl so non-honors students could catch up. “Kids are repeating things they learned in elementary school,” Colburn said. “Also, supports are not in place for special education children and some standard-level children.”

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