Automatically AP

All Federal Way students in grades 6-12 who meet Washington’s state standards are automatically enrolled in accelerated classes, including demanding Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate and Cambridge classes, reports the Huffington Post.

Some 80 percent of the district’s students pass state exams, which suggests it’s not a high bar. Only 30 percent were signing up for advanced programs, which include pre-AP and pre-IB courses for middle-school students.

Enrollment in advanced courses increased by 70 percent this year.  The most demanding classes no longer are primarily white and Asian-American.

Students can opt out of advanced classes with parental permission.  Michael Scuderi, father of a senior at Thomas Jefferson High, which offers IB, says many students aren’t prepared.

“We’ve heard stories of kids that have dropped out of the program, and they’re crushed,” said Scuderi. “Students weren’t told ahead of time everything they were getting themselves into.”

Of 274 11th graders at Thomas Jefferson High automatically enrolled in IB, 43 have dropped at least one course. However,  94 percent of students in advanced classes are passing with a C or better, the district says. Results from AP, IB and Cambridge exams aren’t known yet.

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  1. tim-10-ber says:

    The results from the tests will tell the tale and if the “C” is real or not…hopefully it is. If you see the results please post. I think this will be interesting to watch…now to prepare the kids well starting in kindergarten and this could be exciting! Thank you!

  2. I agree, I’d love to see the test scores when they’re available (both the state tests and then after senior year, the test results).

    Are they all required to take the tests or just the classes?

    There’s no problem with having any child who *wants* to be in that room there, but a local school here has become “all” IB. There are no other options. So, now you have kids in a class that is supposed to be advanced and difficult but don’t want to be there and aren’t at all invested — somehow the teacher has to adjust to the level of interest/behavior that results and try to get the interested kids up to speed and testing ready.

  3. I hope you’re not right about IB – our school is starting the MYP part of IB next year – it’s for ALL students – and I’m wondering how it will turn out.

  4. MYP *is* for all kids, it can be a really great program — so can IB. But enforcing that every child take every class and test and offering no options just doesn’t strike me as a good idea!

  5. Roger Sweeny says:

    The first day of school I tell my students that I can’t unlock their head, flip it open, and pour knowledge in. They have to affirmatively act to bring it in.

    It strikes me that the people who want to make AP or Honors mandatory kind of believe that the former is possible–or, at least, that being in an upper level course will make students act to bring all that knowledge in.

    They are wrong.

  6. Lots of people who want honors or AP for all are reacting emotionally to the findings (going back several decades) that kids who took APs did better on X or Y measure. Ah ha! AP is THE answer! The idea that kids who took APs, particularly when APs had prerequisites, were fundamentally different (ability, preparation and/or motivation) from other students is either unrecognized or ignored.

  7. Automatically AP is absolute idiocy, but is also par for the course in schools these days. In my little corner of the higher ed world, I have students with AP math courses in high school who cannot multiply and divide and who cannot calculate fractions. But, they still take Caluclus I, II, and III in college and win awards from the math department here.

  8. CarolineSF says:

    AP classes are supposed to be college-LEVEL. If all students in high school can succeed in college-level courses, why offer high school at all? It makes no sense.

    If the idea is supposed to be that AP classes are for exceptional students who can succeed in college-level courses while in high school, but now the big fad is having all students take AP classes, should there be a new program of graduate-level classes for exceptional students?

  9. There’s nothing preventing anyone from offering hard courses that aren’t quite AP. If the kids are are scoring 1’s and 2’s, then I don’t see a difference. All it will take is some sort of branding and Wa-Po columnist to rate schools based on them.

  10. Thinly Veiled Anonymity says:

    “College Level” means so many very, very different things.

    My understanding is that AP is supposed to be “Average state school gen ed class” level. Which is very different than intro-course community college level, or Harvard freshman seminar level.

    But that’s really just speculation on my part. Anyone have something more concrete? Or has the College Board sold us a bill o’ goods that there’s some one thing called “College Level” and they’re it?

  11. CarolineSF says:

    i like your handle, TVA.

    Those are valid questions, but even “intro-course community college level” is still supposed to be above high-school level, so by what kind of logic should every high schooler be expected to meet it?

    I propose an exercise for every great thinker who believes that everyone can meet any standard in any area if challenged to do so: Pick a difficult sport or activity that’s brand new to you and immediately execute it at the advanced level. Maybe scuba diving or heli-skiing, or a nice triathlon? Climb Everest?

  12. Thinly Veiled Anonymity says:


    As you may have guessed, my point isn’t that all high school students should be able to meet the Community College Intro level. My point — and it was rather obscurely implicit — is just that a nontrivial number of high school students are already beyond that point. Some are already beyond the ASSGEC level when they are in high school– which is why they go to places like Williams, Amherst, Cornell, and Yale.

    I suppose my point is this: there’s a far, far greater range of academic ability among high school students than most people are willing to admit. (By ability I mean a combination of innate talent, utilization, and training.) The range of ability is wide, and the range of development and education is also wide. Together, though, the size of the gulf between the brilliant-and-cultivated and the even average-and-ignored (let alone the below-average-and-confounded) is staggering.

  13. TVA, I agree with you about the huge ability gap in K-12 students. Why are so many adults blind to this? I think it’s largely because the brain is a black box. Many lower-track kids are quite bright on the surface (and probably do possess a fair amount of native intelligence) , so it’s easy to suppose that a little extra motivation/ higher expectations/ more talented teaching will goose them quickly up to the same level of achievement as their more academically-successful age-mates. But if you agree with E.D. Hirsch’s model of intellectual development (as I do) you understand that the achievement gap is largely a knowledge gap; that high-level academic functioning depends on a large body of stored knowledge, and that this knowledge takes a long time to accumulate. Thus there is no quick fix to the achievement gap. AP for all will likely result in watering down AP, because the badly prepared kids will fail in droves, principals detest high rates of failure, the principals will insinuate that it’s the teacher’s “failure to engage the students” or something like that, and the teacher will have to find clever ways to dumb down the course without seeming to –or face a bad evaluation.

    That said, I do think the AP model –teach a ton of knowledge (as opposed to pretending to teach intellectual functions such as the ability to compare and contrast that we were born with)/ externally test that knowledge –is the way to go for reforming America’s schools. It’s the only way to get away from mushy progressive-ist “skills” teaching, and to end the fraud of promoting kids who have learned nothing year after year.

    I think we need to start using terms like “corruption” to describe what’s happening in American schools, kindergarten through grad school.

  14. Roger Sweeny says:

    But people mean well!