Should average students take challenging Advanced Placement classes?
They can’t handle it, writes Patrick Welsh, a Virginia high school teacher and columnist in USA Today.
What is happening more and more around the country is that average students are being pushed into Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate classes to make schools appear as though they have high standards. In a sense, average kids have become a pawn of school boards and administrators who want to get good PR for boosting the numbers in supposedly rigorous courses. Administrators here in Northern Virginia boast about the numbers of kids taking AP courses but don’t talk much about students’ test scores.
Welsh calls for a middle track for average students who don’t want to be stuck with the slow students but can’t keep up with the best.
Yes, average students can learn in AP classes, replies Jay Mathews in the Washington Post. At Welsh’s school, requiring all AP students to take the end-of-year exam drastically lowered the passing rate. But students at a demographically similar high school nearby take even more AP classes and tests with a higher passing rate.
The Wakefield teachers have seen the studies that show that based on PSAT scores, far more students are capable of taking AP courses than actually do so. Those students that Pat thinks are average may just be underchallenged. Wakefield teachers find ways to lure them into demanding preparatory courses and then into AP and give them the time and encouragement they need to succeed.
I’m convinced that too much academic challenge is not an issue for most American high school students.