To keep students from burning out, some elite high schools are trying to eliminate Advanced Placement classes.
Scarsdale High School is a place where 70 percent of the 1,500 students take an A.P. course, and many take five and six to impress college admissions officers with their willingness to challenge themselves. But like a few private schools, Scarsdale is concluding that the A.P. pile-on is helping turn the teenage years into a rat race where learning becomes a calculated means to an end rather than a chance for in-depth investigation, imagination, even some fun to go along with all that amassing of knowledge.
Top schools that are well-known to admissions offiicers for academic rigor can get away with offering their own honors classes rather than AP, which is validated by a national test. For students at mediocre schools, passing an AP exam is a chance to prove they can meet academic challenges.
AP critics claim that students are stuffed with facts and have no time for real learning.
Even in Scarsdale, administrators say that math teachers like A.P. calculus and feel it offers in-depth flexibility. But too often in English, science and history, teachers and students have found that improvisation, whimsy, the leisure to wrestle with knotty problems get squeezed out in the rush to swallow information.
But AP history is based on teaching students to analyze historical documents; it’s all about the thinking. AP English is about analyzing literature. And I see no harm in high school students taking a survey class. They can go on to more specific classes in college.
If students are burning out, then limit them to two or three AP classes a year.
Via The Ed Wonks.
Update: It may be a rat race, but at least AP-laden high school students are working and learning, writes Naomi Schaefer Riley in Opinion Journal. When they get to college, they’ll have a chance to goof off.