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Ivies start dropping AP classes.

Original post made by College Board, Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jan 18, 2013

Today's NYT reports that Dartmouth has decided to refuse credit for all AP classes. The university studied the results from students who scored a "5" on the AP test and concluded that these students were no better prepared than those who had not taken the AP class isn the first place. Furthermore, in an experiment, 90% of students who had received a "5" in the AP Psychology class failed the intro psych final exam.

And so it begins. AP-mania is eventually going to wane because the coursework is not particularly good, the classes are often poorly-designed, and the instruction is provided by high school teachers rather than college professors and so is by definition not college instruction. Many elite high schools have already realized that the AP craze has harmed their students by stressing them out for no good reason. Good schools are dropping out of the program. Meanwhile, PAUSD continues to double down. When will PAUSD parents realize that the AP program is merely a profit-center for the College Board?

Comments (57)

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Posted by College Board, Inc.
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 18, 2013 at 9:49 am

full article here: Web Link


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Posted by wise choice
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 18, 2013 at 10:20 am

AP course-taking has largely become an exercise in one-upmanship with one's competitors (fellow students)in the quest for elite college admissions.
It used to be the decision to take an AP course was because the student was interested in a particular subject. Now, many parents pay to prep their teens in advance of taking an AP course,a practice I have found abhorrent and borderline cheating.
College Board is a hugely profitable monopoly; expect them to fight this trend tooth and nail.
There are some confident high schools (I know a nationally prominent one) that can afford to drop AP courses and offer their own high quality curriculum and dispense with AP tests; hasn't hurt any of them. Still, for PAUSD students it is a tricky decision since they must take into account local kids managed by Tiger Moms, who require them to take the maximum AP courses possible, and university admissions committees get many apps from PAUSD students - holistic admissions practices (which I understand Stanford DOES use) are very important in America.


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Posted by Old Tiger
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 18, 2013 at 10:32 am

This is not new. In the early '90s, Princeton did not give college credit for AP classes (I assume they still do not, but I don't know for sure). 4s and 5s on AP tests did allow students to skip some introductory courses (for example, starting with multivariable calculus instead on intro calculus), but it would not count for college credit.


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Posted by There's still value in APs
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 18, 2013 at 10:36 am

Fuller story:

"Dartmouth will continue to offer exemptions and placement in some subject areas."

Web Link

"When the new policy takes effect, students will still be able to place out of an introductory level course or be exempted from certain requirements, but they will not be awarded any credits toward graduation."

"Tell [Chair of Dartmouth's Committee on Instruction] is careful to emphasize, though, that he and other faculty members still value AP courses – just not as a replacement for a college classroom. 'We are not trying to discredit AP. That's not the point,' he said. 'We think it's still extremely useful and valuable for students to take in high school. We just don't want to foster the idea in high school students that it is comparable to a college course.'"

"'I suspect that students who are academically ambitious and take AP courses sometimes are much better-prepared...'" Tell said.

"Dartmouth is, of course, not the first institution to stop using AP exam scores to grant college credit, and the number of high school students taking AP courses has continued to rise significantly over the years."

Web Link


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Posted by C
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 18, 2013 at 3:22 pm

Wise choice:
"There are some confident high schools (I know a nationally prominent one) that can afford to drop AP courses and offer their own high quality curriculum and dispense with AP tests; hasn't hurt any of them. Still, for PAUSD students it is a tricky decision since they must take into account local kids managed by Tiger Moms, who require them to take the maximum AP courses possible, and university admissions committees get many apps from PAUSD students - holistic admissions practices (which I understand Stanford DOES use) are very important in America."
I would not object if Paly stopped offering AP courses, that saying, only if Paly stopped offering AP courses in NAME. If they stopped teaching to the test a bit and taught a little more on areas not on the test but important, that would be fine by me. I would make up the gap in independent study. But if your proposition would do anything like creating one lane for all classes I beg of you please don't ever disturb the AP system. Though I agree College Board is a monopoly and it isn't all that effective in gauging learning, I view it as a way to allow students to take difficult classes. With the uproar over "student stress," it is no longer feasible to require all students to finish the 1200+ page book The American Pageant (as is required in APUSH, a fabulous class I'm enrolled in) and, since I want the option to do so, there must either be an honors or AP or IB class for me to take.

As for AP's not being equivalent to college classes, it's been that way for YEARS. AP tests nowadays are significantly easier than they were in the 80's and grade inflation has increased absurdly since my parent's time. Take AP Chemistry: Everyone I've talked to who's taken AP Chem, from Paly, Gunn, other areas in the Bay Area, New York, Washington DC (for high school -- they're all in college now, so in other areas), etc. has confirmed that even if you get a 5 and have read the chem book and understand it, because of lab experience it is nothing like a college chem course. Although most places offer the ability to redeem AP Chem for a yearlong college course credit, most veterans recommend only using it to fill a semester or three quarters of 1st-year college chem because of the disparity in difficulty of lectures and labs.

And remember, Paly is the exception not the rule. I would assume that Paly kids are part of the 10% passing out.


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Posted by College Board, Inc.
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 18, 2013 at 3:57 pm

@C I didn't see anyone suggesting eliminating honors or advanced coursework. The question is whether to have an AP curriculum that is set elsewhere and does not reflect the interests or strengths of our teachers, students, or larger community. The Journalism program at Paly is a great example of a wonderful program taught by first rate teachers, attractive to high-achieving students, and exciting to the broader community but which is not AP. As the focus gets tighter and tighter on APs for the sake of APs we have to ask what is the opportunity cost of so many students being placed in a situation in which rather than take courses that spark their interest they take the same 12 APs as everyone else so that they can have a competitive resume. If the best colleges are now saying the curriculum is deficient and these are only good as markers of taking challenging classes, that frees up schools to have other markers. AP is a profit center for College Board, not a center of excellence for schools.


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Posted by paly Parent
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 18, 2013 at 4:23 pm

A friend of my son's made the deliberate choice at Paly to pursue his passions - not to take AP classes for their own sake. He admitted is was a gamble, but he is now at one of the top film schools in the country. Pursuing passion is a good thing.

I agree with the earlier post that PAUSD kids would probably be among those passing a college level test for the related AP class. Many kids score 5's on AP tests and get B in PAUSD.


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Posted by C
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 18, 2013 at 7:24 pm

On AP's: I do think the test is a little annoying because it causes teachers to skirt certain issues, but I think it's necessary to provide some standard of teaching among high schools, although that system is clearly failing. Still, it provides a nice idea of what should be studied when.

As for "As the focus gets tighter and tighter on APs for the sake of APs we have to ask what is the opportunity cost of so many students being placed in a situation in which rather than take courses that spark their interest they take the same 12 APs as everyone else so that they can have a competitive resume." I kind of shrug. It's true that in PAUSD taking a AP isn't a "big deal" -- in some areas, since they only offer 9 AP's total or limit students to 1 or 2 AP's, it is. I figure this is why everyone takes so many AP's -- [a subject's] mildly interesting, and everyone else is [taking AP's], so why not? I'm having this experience in an AP I'm currently enrolled. I enjoyed the last year's intro-level course, but don't exactly enjoy the AP I'm enrolled in, and it requires much more effort than expected. I just took it because I thought, well, I kind of enjoyed this class last year & it's useful & so why not? Still, other than AP Environmental Science (the ONE class which I have found this is true for, my apologies to all APES teachers) I have yet to meet a student who takes an AP because they don't either a) like the subject or b) will find it useful for some purpose other than college admissions.

Perhaps they're just lurking. In the debates over math I've seen a few strictly anti-stress zealots who demand reducing homework to near two hours junior year (the 10 minutes/night thing... 11th grade = 110 minutes = 1 hour 50 minutes) despite the fact if you take APUSH or AP Chem 1 hour of your work will be going to just reading the chapter, so you'd have 1 hour for the remaining 6 or 5 subjects, or 10 minutes each, effectively limiting you to one AP and ignoring how impossible it would be to coordinate a schedule like that... regardless...


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Posted by Granny
a resident of another community
on Jan 19, 2013 at 8:13 am

Back in the dark ages of the mid-1960s, AP wasn't available in my high school. Gaining college credit while in high school was never a goal, yet I did earn college credits by taking a couple of classes at Foothill, and UC Berkeley accepted those credits.

Taking classes at Foothill during the summer or during the regular school year would be a way for some students to prove they are capable of handling college coursework and potentially allow them to graduate from college earlier.


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Posted by Overkill
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Jan 19, 2013 at 9:56 am

My niece, nephew, and a friend's daughter were all pushed to take a lot of AP courses at Paly and Gunn, and all three suffered in the end.

My friend's daughter had a nervous breakdown her freshman year at U of Michigan, and had to take two years off. Then she had to enroll in a school that was smaller and less stressful.

My nephew had a nervous breakdown at Cal Poly his first semester, and refused to go back to any college, anywhere. Ten years later, he works at Starbuck's!

My niece burned out in her sophomore year at Boston University and dropped out. She returned to school at Foothill after a year off. Sick of pressure, she went at a slower pace and eventually, eight years later, got into law school at Stanford, but dropped out again. She still lives with her parents, and now attends Santa Clara University.

I also personally know some kids who variously became anorexic, bulimic, or severely depressed after struggling with an overload of AP classes in high schools both public and private. Some also continued to suffer in college and were disappointed to find that college was "too much like a big high school", and burned out before there college careers were complete.


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Posted by Foothill not ideal anymore
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 19, 2013 at 12:27 pm

Granny,

From what I've observed taking APs for college credit is not what drives the decision to enroll in them. It is as simple as just wanting to learn more about a subject than is taught in the entry level class.

Four problems with Paly students taking classes at Foothill.

With CA's budget problems, Foothill students have a hard enough time getting the classes they want. Many classes are closed before non-Foothill students can enroll.

With Paly's block scheduling where a student's class schedule is different each day of the week, it is difficult to find a Foothill class that doesn't conflict.

If the student doesn't have a car, it is almost impossible to get to Foothill from Paly. It takes two buses and an hour to get there and an hour to get back.

As for taking Foothill classes in the summer, that would leave lots of students bored during the school year and have them in school year round without a break. Not ideal either.



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Posted by daniel
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 20, 2013 at 11:52 am

AP classes have been the premier method by which many parents, by having vast financial resources, or the incessant need to push their students (tiger parents) gamed the system. Morally, I see little difference between AP classes, particularly in school districts like ours, and what Lance Armstrong has done to "win" all those races. The day we eliminate them completely is the day I say "good riddance".


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Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jan 20, 2013 at 1:20 pm

O, beware, my lord, of jealousy; It is the green-ey'd monster, which doth mock the meat it feeds on.


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Posted by gamaing
a resident of Community Center
on Jan 20, 2013 at 1:21 pm

daniel,

If it is not this game, then there will be another kind. But some game will be there. Everyone cannot go the Ivies.


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Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 20, 2013 at 2:48 pm

This is interesting.

In our high school, we had plenty of choices of classes. We had AP classes, concurrent enrollment classes (on the campuses of local colleges and universities), AP classes for which we simultaneously earned college credit, "college preparatory" classes, "honors" classes, "advanced honors" classes and, of course, regular and remedial high school classes.

These classes were weighed differently. If you took AP classes, you would get a sizable "bump" to your weighted GPA. You would get a smaller, varying "bumps" with concurrent enrollment, college prep, honors or advanced honors courses. This was odd to me, because I found the AP courses to be easier than most of the concurrent enrollment courses that I completed.

It was a bit more difficult explaining the differences to the officials from the college admissions departments of the various universities to which I applied.

If students really wanted to, they could easily "play the system" in order to simply find the best advantage for college admissions rather than the best opportunities to learn.

Perhaps this announcement is a reaction by Dartmouth to the lack of congruence from high schools -- public and private -- on a state and national level? Since Ivy League schools and other schools are highly competitive. There are some great students who will miss admission to top tier universities by the "skin of their teeth."


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Posted by resident
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jan 20, 2013 at 4:33 pm

The world is global, so the pressure to get into harvard, mit, stanford is now global. Our kids are competing globally. Even the ones that get in need remedial math to catch up with their peers who have come from Singapore or China. And then once they are there they are taught by TAs and need remedial math to match their peers coming in from Singapore or China, or even Europe. These schools which used to be so wonderful are no more. The better route is to learn to think and use your imagination at a school in Europe. Get into a good enough college as an undergrad then pay your way in for grad school - which is truly brilliant at Stanford, Harvard and MIT. Who wants to pay 60,000 a year to be taught by TA's when you can get it for a quarter the price overseas and get a better education anyway.


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Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jan 20, 2013 at 5:05 pm

An A+ in AP classes at Cubberley was worth 4.0 on the GPA. No grade inflation yet.

My undergrad college, however, did give 4.33 for an A+ or 3.67 for an A-


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Posted by wise choice
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 20, 2013 at 7:21 pm

@resident, there are plenty equivalent universities and LACs besides "Stanford, Harvard, and MIT." It is laughable that you think these are the ones deserving to be noted.


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Posted by Self-realization
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 20, 2013 at 10:38 pm

After having a kid go through high school and the college application process, there were just a few things I realized:

*APs are kind of an important factor to get ADMISSION into college. You may or may not get credit, depending on the university.

*What you learn is college is definitely more than in an AP class.

*APs are a hype created by the college board to collect the $85 fee per exam. They will try and do anything to win this battle.

*Depending on the high-school and more so the teacher you get, you might learn a bit more in an AP class than you would in a normal lane for the subject. For some of the Gunn students who took AP Physics B in 2011-12, they didnot learn a thing in the first semester, till they got a new teacher in their 'senioritis' semester.

*AP courses help you in your weighted GPA

*A 5 in an AP exam, and a B as your grade in high school (that is what PAUSD students get sometimes). So it is GPA vs AP score. What will get you in the college of your choice is a mystery as the admissions process has too many gray zones.

So may the best decision prevail!!


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Posted by Participant
a resident of Greendell/Walnut Grove
on Jan 21, 2013 at 9:21 am

I think it's important that parents work with the student they have. If your student is in a situation where they are unable to keep up, it is your responsibility as a parent to help him or her make a change before it becomes an emergency. It is possible for a student to be stressed out by their course load if the classes are not challenging or engaging enough. Forcing yourself to succeed in dull classes with uninspired teachers is just a different kind of challenge from taking classes in which the material is over your ability level. It is wonderful that our high schools offer such a broad range of choices. This does not mean everyone should be forced to choose the most challenging options, nor would it be beneficial to level the field so everyone is in the same dumbed down classes. The college entrance challenge has indeed become warped by parents who create a false profile for their student that gets them into a school regardless of who the student might be. A school that accepts such students reaps the appropriate rewards in mental health crises on campus, and the resulting attrition. The students lose out as the result, both the victims of these parents, and the students who might be up to the challenge, but get edged out by these packaged ones because they are authentic.


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Posted by a resident
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 21, 2013 at 11:24 am

Its a global world and academic standards are high in many countries in Asia and Europe. Problem in US is that the curriculum is a mile wide and inch deep and we have social promotion. Kids are stretched out doing unnecessary stuff as well. Much in society is toxic for kids. Its a tough problem and kids should be raised holistically...that in itself is pretty difficult.


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Posted by Private School parent
a resident of Gunn High School
on Jan 21, 2013 at 2:15 pm

There is a trend away from AP classes that teach (poorly?) to the test and don't really prepare students for the rigor of college. As the article states, colleges are finding that while students may be able to get a "5" on an AP test, many are not able to perform at that level in college. Instead of loading up on AP classes, students should be able to dive into areas that they are truly interested in. High schools should provide the opportunity for students to go deeper into History, Physics, Calculus, etc, but it shouldn't be in a "teach to the test" class.

There is a new private High School opening up in San Mateo in 2013 that on their website at least is saying the right things. I will definitely be taking a close look at this high school as an option for my middle school child. Gunn is a great school given the current education model (segregate kids by ability, load the talent kids with APs), but this education model should (and will?) change. Nueva School looks to be a leader in this change.

Web Link

From the Nueva website regarding APs: "Like those of many college preparatory high schools, Nueva's curriculum moves beyond the standardized AP program, instead focusing on deeper intensive units, seminars, projects, upper level Advanced Topics electives, and longer college-level research papers. While Nueva will not “teach to the tests," the curriculum will certainly prepare students to take SAT II and AP tests with deep mastery of core concepts and intensive electives, and the expectation is that many will take the tests. Nueva is already an approved site for AP testing and has many middle school students that take (and excel at) these exams every year."


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Posted by Participant
a resident of Greendell/Walnut Grove
on Jan 21, 2013 at 2:30 pm

Last time I checked, Nueva required an intelligence test to get in. That suggests it is already segregating out the higher level students and not offering any option for others. How does that belong in this discussion?


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Posted by Private School parent
a resident of Gunn High School
on Jan 21, 2013 at 2:46 pm

From what I read, the Nueva HS does not require an IQ test (the lower does, however), but rather bases admission on MS performance, essays, ISEE/SSAT, etc.

This topic is about the usefulness of AP classes. The kids who take AP classes at Gunn are the kids that Nueva, Menlo, and other academically focused private schools target.


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Posted by Nueva middle school students take AP test??
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 21, 2013 at 4:05 pm

Did I really read that correctly??? One of the comments I frequently hear from Nueva parents is that their students' homework is relevant, interesting and an extension of school - NEVER busy work!


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Posted by the_punnisher
a resident of Mountain View
on Jan 21, 2013 at 8:29 pm

the_punnisher is a registered user.

I'll add a dose of reality here, along with my views from watching a similar AP setup in the Denver Metro Area Schools...

When I graduated in 3 years to go to SJSU in the fallof '73, I had the usual freshman LOW PRIORITY when trying to get a course load that would fit with my work schedule at AMD.

I'll skip down to the bottom line to what I learned at SJSU:

YOU LEARN TO PLAY THE POLITICS OF WHICH BUTT TO KISS AND HOW LONG TO KISS IT!

I was learning far more than anything offered at my level in the SJSU School of Engineering at my job at AMD!

That came to a head when I outright disagreed with stuff being taught in my MatSci couse ( a needed common core class along with all the other General Ed. classes heavily biased to butt kissing by freshmen ).
MatSci was one of the required lower level classes in the Engineering Common Core that allowed you to take the upper level coursework.
When I commented about the fledgling Semiconductor Industry practices the instructor was teaching, I said " we don't do that anymore " and started to give relevant examples. The teacher was furious and gave me my only " D " in my pre-engineering classwork.

I took a hard look at what SJSU was really going to offer as opposed to where I was going in the ACTUALLY PAID LEARNING EXPERIENCE at AMD and it became a no-brainer. The one class I took at SJSU that involved FORTRAN programming, I actually knew more than the guy teaching it at the end of the semester ( I aced the course before I actually got a copy for my S-100 computer I built ).

I dropped back to Foothill College for a more balanced " learn about learning " and a more well rounded education that gave me the extra tools to put my actual ability to soak up knowledge to work. I also got the SCUBA cert and Aviation Ground School at Foothill College.

I was turning into a highly sought after person before there was en a Test Engineering degree which is now commonplace in the EE field. Still not offered by SJSU yet....

I knew I had made it big time when I had started to play the " walk across the street and get a 30% raise " game in Sunnyvale/Santa Clara.

When the rest of the country wanted the best talent, they came to our new " Silicon Valley " to get it.
Cray Research liked what they saw and the EXPERIENCE I had. That turned into the best and most profitable 8 years I had ever had.Yes, some of the equipment I helped design and build was used at NASA Ames to create the Shuttle. The same applies to the 747 and " Fine German Engineered Cars ".

When Politics finally killed off Cray Research, it was THE OTHER education coursework at Foothill College that gave me opportunities. WHOI saw my SCUBA cert. " want to handle the TCP/IP Communications and Data gathering? ( I found the weather too rough ).

When it comes to AP placement, it IS a big deal out here in Denver. It's like a lottery drawing with many parents more upset that the students. Yeah, I went to the usual briefings with the " don't be disappointed if your student doesn't get chosen " mantra.

Right now, my " student " is becoming one of the top D/R people in the field. ALL of the clients had NO effect from the hurricane effects out east. The company had only ONE location affected and that location was backed up to another location.

Oh, when I finally went back to finish the AS from Foothill, I had already earned it....it's somewhere in that pile of awards and certifications... The IEEE and Who's Who ASKED ME to be members. it's usually the other way around....



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Posted by C
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 22, 2013 at 11:49 am

"AP classes have been the premier method by which many parents, by having vast financial resources, or the incessant need to push their students (tiger parents) gamed the system. Morally, I see little difference between AP classes, particularly in school districts like ours, and what Lance Armstrong has done to "win" all those races. The day we eliminate them completely is the day I say "good riddance"."
Seriously? Has it ever occurred to you that students, like myself, might ever take an AP class because they WANT to, because they WANT a more academic course instead of a less-intellectual less-out-of-class work class? Evidently not. Gaming the system? Yeah right, AP's -- even if they're not the equivalent of college courses -- are still very important to teaching time management and they're certainly more academic then the non-AP lanes.

Also, regarding AP v college courses, somewhere on the surveys offered by PAUSD is data on how many students have to take remedial math once in college. The numbers aren't high; we're succeeding in that regard.


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Posted by wise choice
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 22, 2013 at 2:01 pm

Simmer down, C. Nobody means a blanket statement. Some kids, sime years, DO take APs out of interest. I find one way of gauging that is to make a mild inquiry of a teen acquaintance, famly friend, whatever, and sometimes one can ascertain real interest and sometimes s/he even admits parental pressure to be competitive is why one is taking a course. A certain percentage let it be known they want the maximum number of APs, making it indeed seem like a "game" as someone posted above. That is too bad. Your education ought to be more exploratory, enjoyable, and self-directed.
Furthermore, the notion that it is an either/or choice is terrible! Let's see: the status-y AP course or "a less-intellectual-less out of class work class," as you put it?!
EVERY academic course in high school ought to have merit and offer real learning and high quality instruction.
APs are a special category/curriculum, and while some may "like" them (for status or for the actual course), there are schools that offer very strong coursework that is not AP-brand-label but yet that is of high academic content! Please do not put down others who have taken such courses. An example would be at a private school. I have met a lot of students from many places around the U.S. and know there is quite a variety of education and many areas produce successful, educated HS grads!
Still, many of us who have had multiple kids go through the system have seen changes over the years (not to mention from when we went through PA high schools, ourselves, many of us...and not that long ago, in my case).
Some of these changes include fellow parents openly or secretly paying for their kids to have tutoring in advance of AP courses, with the express requirement of an "A" at the end of the course. WIth all the extra-curriculars nowadays, it CAN be difficult for a self-directed kid to compete with those who have been parent-managed in an adult-calculating way, maiximizing opportunities, contests, etc.
It distresses me when there is very little discussion about interests (academic or otherwise) and learning; a LOT of discussion about Ivies. To much focus on Ivies, in fact - as some aren't even the "leaders" in particular academic fields!
Remedial Math - not a subject that would affect many from PAUSD anyway.
AP courses are generally NOT equivalent to college courses, if you attend a major college or university, so be careful about accepting credit if you end up going to a place that permits this.
From what I have witnessed, major colleges are generally harder than PALY and Gunn.
Some colleges are lamenting current helicopter parents - even to the extent of grad school admissions!


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Posted by Enough
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jan 22, 2013 at 2:21 pm

Dear "Overkill",
Your comment above is one of the most valuable in this entire thread - and it is going mostly unnoticed. For me, your comments about the academic paths of your family members and friends are exactly what I would like to avoid, and I appreciate your disclosure. I hope you disclose the above comments all over town, to anyone who will listen. School was certainly not like this when I was a student, and my kids are still in elementary school. Yet I see the pressure(from Parents) to excel and beat out the competition already at the elementary level. And I see the negative impact on the kids.


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Posted by irritated
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 22, 2013 at 2:22 pm

wise choice: "Some of these changes include fellow parents openly or secretly paying for their kids to have tutoring in advance of AP courses, with the express requirement of an "A" at the end of the course. WIth all the extra-curriculars nowadays, it CAN be difficult for a self-directed kid to compete with those who have been parent-managed in an adult-calculating way, maiximizing opportunities, contests, etc. "

I don't see why you are outraged by what others do with their time and money. It's all a trade off. The tiger-parent kids miss out on fun while they are pre-prepping for their AP courses. Your kids have a chance to do other activities instead on being tutored. Even if the parents "require an A" there is no guarantee their kids will deliver in spite of all the tutoring.

Also what is wrong with just taking APs for the sake of maximizing the number of APs? There is no requirement of "genuine interest" in a particular subject. Here the "genuine interest" is simply in maximizing the number of APs. Again the student has to follow through and do the work to get good grades in all the APs they have signed up for.

Just take care of your own kids, leave others be.


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Posted by Participant
a resident of Greendell/Walnut Grove
on Jan 22, 2013 at 3:10 pm

Again, parents who job the system to build a profile that does not match their student, are cheating. The problem with cheating is that a student who is genuinely right for a more challenging college program gets edged out by one who has been packaged, who will burn out because he or she is not in the right place. So yes, if it only affected the cheating parent it would be fine. Instead, their efforts produce inflation for everybody.


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Posted by irritated
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 22, 2013 at 3:24 pm

Call me old-school, but examples of cheating to me are copying another kids answers on an exam, plagiarism, stealing the exam from the teacher ahead of time, breaking into the school computer and changing your grade, etc. Helping your child learn the material in advance does not constitute cheating in any universe. And there is only anecdotal evidence to support your "burn out" theory. For every "burn out" there are likely many more success stories from tiger-parent style "packaging" of kids.


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Posted by Participant
a resident of Greendell/Walnut Grove
on Jan 22, 2013 at 4:05 pm

Irritated, Thank you for creating a definition for me to have used in my post about cheating parents. However it is not relevant as, 'helping your child learn the material in advance' is not the definition of cheating, as you pointed out. It really might help if you didn't create an alternate reality for yourself.


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Posted by irritated
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 22, 2013 at 4:28 pm

Participant: I must be tired because I am having trouble parsing your response. Anyway we can agree to disagree and leave it at that.


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Posted by C
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 23, 2013 at 8:09 am

I could call it the average lane, or the more work class, but I suppose I chose the wording of less. Does it matter if I call an AP more work or an average class less work than the AP? To me there's little difference, although perhaps since there's a stigma attached to "less work" I should have been more careful in my wording. My apologies. As for non-AP labeled courses that are work, again, they're all fine by me. I assume that they're similar in outside devotion (1 hour per day per week or so, or more) and therefore nearer in caliber: I know as a fact that certain non-AP's require little time outside class, and especially relative to the AP, hence the label even if undeserved. As for college courses > AP, everyone knows it: it's generally, according to students anyway, only worth redeeming 1 semester of Chem from AP chem and only using other AP credits if you're confident enough to skip an intro class or aren't going to use the credits for anything but graduation.


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Posted by Catfish
a resident of Community Center
on Jan 23, 2013 at 4:10 pm

Some posters who support the College Board taking over the curriculum (including one who appears to be a mom impersonating a student) suggest that kids just refrain from taking these classes if they don't want to do the work. This is either naive or malevolant and I suspect the latter. As everyone knows students are evaluated in college admissions regarding whether they took advantage of the opportunities offered. Because PAUSD has fully bought into the college board program students who want to attend 4 year colleges are forced to keep pace at least somewhat. This is true even if they "only" want to attend a lower ranked UC. The fact that PAUSD offers so many APs means that your student must take multiple APs. Elementary parents this is how it is eve though you don't know it yet. Your child is in an arms race and those whose kids are succeeding at it are only too happy to generously offer the advice that your child should drop out of the competition. These cheerleader moms just see your child as competition so the sooner they drop out (or dead) of exhaustion the better. There is another way. This is unnecessary.


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Posted by Ugh
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 23, 2013 at 6:20 pm



"As everyone knows students are evaluated in college admissions regarding whether they took advantage of the opportunities offered."

You would think that among the opportunities offered was to NOT take APs.

Or APs somehow reflect the poor work the regular classes are doing in challenging students.

Colleges and High Schools need to get their act together and stop this stupidity of pushing students to compete on bravado.


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Posted by palo alto native
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 23, 2013 at 6:35 pm

Winning at all costs, by gaming the system is unethical. I am certain that this will eventually catch up w the child. I feel sorry for these kids, the message is that they are not good enough
on their own. So sad to watch.


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Posted by be careful what you wish for
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 23, 2013 at 7:02 pm

If all Palo Alto high school students are in one-size-fits all classrooms, teachers will ramp up what they teach to challenge the most advanced students who will set the curve, leaving the rest with lower grades than they would have gotten if those students were not in their classes. Lower grades will hurt their chances for college admissions.

With few to no APs in our high schools, students with the time (read "not need a job") and money (read "rich") will take advanced classes elsewhere. Without competition from less well-off students who would have been in AP classes offered at school, you will make it far easier for wealthy students to stand out academically too.


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Posted by Catfish
a resident of Community Center
on Jan 24, 2013 at 1:45 pm

That's a red herring palo alto native. Fewer APs doesn't mean fewer advanced classes. It means advanced classes developed by our faculty according to faculty and student interest. In schools leaving the AP program this invariable leads to better more extensive and richer advanced course offerings. Lets stop minting money for the college board, forcing our kids into an arms race and giving the district an easy way to take credit for the "success of PAUSD" in the AP contest. We can do better than the AP program like many other elite high schools. 20 years from now when the AP fad is over it will be seen for what it was -- a fad. But our kids only are kids now.


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Posted by Catfish
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 24, 2013 at 1:47 pm

Sorry that was directed to "careful" not "nativel.


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Posted by Ugh
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 24, 2013 at 5:26 pm


Careful,

I agree with Catfish, and

Fewer APS only means fewer APs.

It does not mean nobody gets into college. Or that there will be fewer opportunities to LEARN.





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Posted by be careful what you wish for
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 24, 2013 at 8:03 pm

Catfish, "forcing our kids into an arms race" - if you replace APs with advanced classes won't students sign up for lots of the new advanced classes instead? To stop the "race," the different lanes would need to be collapsed into one-size-fits all classes.


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Posted by catfish
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 24, 2013 at 8:51 pm

No I think that the proliferation of advanced courses will be more likely to break down by interest. And not all honors and advanced courses provide that sought after gpa bump and if they don't that will cut the grade grubbing behavior quite a bit. For example the remarkable and excellent journalism program at Paly is clearly an advanced course and students with an interest in public affairs, writing, or just having great teachers do take those classes while those whose interests lie elsewhere may not because they aren't getting extra brownie points. the same could have been said about robotics at gunn. Students who love a topic will wake the class. You know what is "one size fits all?" The AP program which all kids who would like to attend a 4 year college now feel they must slog through just to have a shot at the increasingly stiff competition. In truth the "one size" and "dumbing down" are just scare tactics designed to force a continuation of a program to benefit the posters own kids (or so they believe). This is the kind of scare tactic that was used to great effect in the recent election against the person who was clearly the smartest and most competent and thoughtful. It will be a long time before someone of that caliber (Yale, google) will want to run again if he or she is going to be smeared by fear tactics. Think parents. Don't believe the fear and scare strategies . PAUSD has a public choice problem in which a small vocal minority of insiders are forcing the system to operate to their advantage and resisting efforts to make it less dysfunctional for the majority. Where do you think the entitled howls of outrage about the calendar are coming from? AP mania will eventually end just like x ray mania ( who remembers getting X-rays at shoe stores and nuclear power and DDT. These things were believed to be great advances later found harmful. AP classes will eventually go that way as well. It is a matter of time. The best schools are already exiting the program. At this point all PAUSD can do is lead from behind.


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Posted by you = small vocal minority
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 25, 2013 at 7:09 am

Ah, Catfish. I see. This is about We Can Do Better/Ken Dauber. As demonstrated by the election loss last November, it is you who are the "small vocal minority." Ken Dauber didn't win because the majority did not agree with his - and your - positions.

Today's WCDB issue: boils down to reducing the number of APs (UC-weighted GPA classes) because they make it harder for students who aren't taking them, or aren't doing well in them, to get into colleges that count APs.

Instead of changing the AP system that is embraced by virtually every public high school in the nation, how about having your child look at great colleges that don't put much weight on APs.

Here's a book that might help:
Web Link

If your child is not in high school yet and you don't have the money to send him to the private schools you applaud, transfer him to a public high school which has lots of families who share your world view.

Woodside High comes to mind. While it also gives an extra GPA point to AP class grades, it has fewer students taking APs than Paly does.

But beware, even Woodside High would be loathe to get rid of APs if its website, with an entire page devoted to APs, is any indication:

"Why choose AP? Advanced Placement courses are the most widely accepted and honored classes at four-year universities in the United States. More than 90 percent of four-year colleges in the United States and colleges in more than 60 other countries give students credit, advanced placement or both on the basis of AP Exam scores. By entering college with AP credits, you'll have the time to move into upper level courses, pursue a double-major or study abroad."

Turns out that APs - which make it easier to double major or make space to study abroad - are good for students once they are in college too.


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Posted by Catfish
a resident of Community Center
on Jan 25, 2013 at 7:29 am

As I said someday probably soon we will look back and wonder why we devoted so much of our curriculum and public money to the enrichment of the college board. Until then PAUSD will promote the race because it looks like it is "winning" in the test score statistics. The majority are being harmed for the benefit of these stage mothers false sense of "accomplishment." If the AP program is so terrific why do so many PAUSD students get 5s on the test and a b or c in the class? Why did Dartmouth students who got 5s on the test FAIL the final exam (not a b or c but an f)? This isn't about the election except that was another instance in which disinformation was used and obvy by the same people (ie you). For the record 15k votes is not a plurality but it is hardly small. Clearly it is too big and the vote too close to declare that these are the non issues of a marginal candidate as you hope.


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Posted by you = small vocal minority
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 25, 2013 at 11:10 am

Catfish,

Precisely how many PAUSD students get 5s on AP tests but Bs or Cs in the AP class? There are a few teachers infamous for grinding students like this but it is not a problem in most of Paly's AP classes.

That mismatch means that those teachers are either really hard graders or are teaching more than what the College Board requires. Change the teacher and the outcome could be completely different. That is a internal issue, not a black mark against APs.

Intriguing about Dartmouth's finding of the mismatch of AP scores with their entrance exams. Problem with calling that out as anti-APism is that Dartmouth still very much supports APs. While it won't give out graduation credit, Dartmouth students will be able to use APs to place out of intro classes.


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Posted by Catfish
a resident of Community Center
on Jan 25, 2013 at 4:00 pm

I think is more prevalent than you suggest. Barbara klausner repeatedly referred to this problem while on the board and many many parents at gunn have expressed concern as well as at Paly with which I am more familiar. Actually I think it is a problem for the AP program and not merely in PAUSD. Harvard also is not granting credit. Stanford gives it only in a limited set of classes. There are easier cheaper ways to take a placement test and that is so obvious it doesn't need saying yet still on this forum often captain obvious has to make an appearance. The AP program may serve a purpose in providing an off the shelf advanced curriculum for poor and minority students. It does nothing for wealthy elite schools except stress the kids with an unnecessary arms race (to the benefit of a private company). Our local decision to offer not just a few but many many means that your tax and bond and pie dollars are essentially subsidizing college board. What a misdirection of public funds to be paying to stress out our kids and enrich college board.


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Posted by Ugh
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 25, 2013 at 5:36 pm


you=small minority, and catfish,

Whenever the conversation becomes about the haves and have nots, or the fittest vs less academically fit, it seems we just go around in circles. And it conjures up memories of Everyday Math.

I don't belong to any camp, but I'm following Catfish's line of thinking more than the gung ho AP camp, let our children roar.

AP is a way to distinguish a student. In the absence of other distinguishing factors, AP would help. Elite private schools have the luxury of distinguishing themselves, or some have name recognition, so they can afford to say we don't need AP to distinguish our students.

You'd think Palo Alto could pull off a near private school label, AND cut the baloney of AP classes, and let our kids fuggett about it already. Just go to school, learn and the competition would take care of itself.

UNLESS, what we're actually saying with AP is that our regular classes are lame.









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Posted by you = small vocal minority
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 25, 2013 at 6:24 pm

Catfish,

UCs and CSUs give AP credit toward graduation - lots of it. But it sounds like you are trying to turn Paly and Gunn into a private school that serves the wealthy ("wealthy elite schools" is how you refer to it). So in that world view, the only consideration is if APs are helpful to students going on to the Dartmouths, Harvards or Stanfords; if they are not, we should do away with them and disregard the interests of students who can't afford private tuition and plan on going to the UCs.

For your information, plenty of students are not stressed out in their AP classes and many really enjoy them. Undoubtedly some are stressed and they need to drop down a lane, but by no means should their misplacement be reason to get rid of an AP program that is serving plenty of PAUSD students well.


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Posted by Catfish
a resident of Community Center
on Jan 26, 2013 at 3:28 pm

The inherent goodness of enriching the college board and propping up local property values with the scores is a religion for you. But for thinking parents who are wondering whether it makes sense to pour so many public resources into the College Board the answer is "no." Someday this will be obvious in hindsight. For now, kids get back in the hamster wheel and get Dr. Skelly a raise.


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Posted by you = small vocal minority
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 27, 2013 at 11:33 am

Catfish,

When you strip away the pejoratives, WCBD's arguments are for huge, systematic changes when individual tweaks - like dropping down a lane - would reduce their students' stress and suffice.

Name calling (cheerleader/tiger moms, hamster wheels) and fiction (arms race, fear and scare strategies, mania) are red-herrings intended to dismiss and quiet those who dare not agree.

BTW - no tax dollars, bond money or PiE donations subsidize the AP program. Its costs are the same as any class Paly teaches - textbooks, materials and professional development. The fees for AP exams are paid by the students who take them.




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Posted by Catfish
a resident of Community Center
on Jan 30, 2013 at 4:28 pm

Who do you think is paying the teachers who teach the AP classes? And if these teachers were teaching something else (such as the interesting new classes they proposed to the BoE last night on Positive Psych and Comedy Literature and mobile programming -- if they are teaching things that they love and students love that are also advanced level courses, then that public money would not be spent on teaching to the College Board's standardized curriculum. A significant part of the PAUSD budget is allocated toward getting kids ready for APs, and teaching them APs. This traps the parents into paying for the tests, as well as for the tutors to prep the kids for the tests. Do you think that money is coming from nowhere? I can appreciate how someone who does not work but just has a man deposit a bunch of money into an account every month might think that money comes from nowhere but that is just not the case. Perhaps no one has told you.


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Posted by Incoming Gunn Ninth Grader
a resident of Terman Middle School
on Jan 30, 2013 at 8:12 pm

Is there an update on this? I've heard from peers that their older siblings say Ivy League colleges don't care about AP classes anymore. Just to clarify, do they still look at Honors classes?


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Posted by Paly Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 30, 2013 at 8:20 pm

@Incoming 9th: that's absolutely incorrect. Colleges still want to see some AP and honors classes on the transcript for "rigor". If APs are worthless, then more students will have 4.0s and how will they decide who are the elite students? Many Ivy Leagues are not giving college credit to AP classes as they did in the past because they claim that high school AP classes are easier than college classes. But they still want APs on the transcript.


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Posted by Old School
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 30, 2013 at 9:19 pm

Generally elite schools want to see students take the most challenging courses available at their school. Not necessarily all of them, of course, but certainly a reasonable number. At our schools, many of those are AP courses, and typically the ambitious kids have 5 or more on their transcript.


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Posted by Ugh
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 30, 2013 at 11:06 pm



Catfish,

"I can appreciate how someone who does not work but just has a man deposit a bunch of money into an account every month might think that money comes from nowhere"

Someone like me? the bunch of money in my account comes from the man. I used to work, I am a woman, so the money was at one time deposited by the man and the woman.

Only the man now.

Back to the thread, would you know what Honors classes are worth these days? More than a man, less than a woman?


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