“Honors” or “advanced” classes don’t necessarily require high-level learning, writes Jay Mathews in the Washington Post. In addition to grade inflation, schools have succumbed to course-label inflation.
In an American education system full of plans for better high schools, more and more courses have impressive labels, such as “honors,” “advanced,” “college prep” and “Advanced Placement.” But many researchers and educators say the teaching often does not match the title.
Low-income and minority students are the most likely to be placed in title-inflated classes, researchers say.
They said 60 percent of low-income students, 65 percent of African American students and 57 percent of Hispanic students who had received course credit for geometry or algebra 2 in Texas failed a state exam covering material from geometry and algebra 1. By contrast, the failure rates for non-low-income and white students were 36 and 32 percent, respectively.
“Pre-calculus” can mean just about anything.
AP courses at least have final exams, written and scored by outside experts, that reveal whether students have mastered the material. Wayne Bishop, a math professor at California State University in Los Angeles, examined an AP calculus class in a Pasadena, Calif., high school. All 23 students, Bishop found, got As and Bs from their teacher, but their grades on the AP exam were the college equivalent of 21 Fs and two Ds.
When both grades and course titles become meaningless, test scores become even more powerful.