Is AP for average kids? More schools say ‘yes’

Charter and magnet schools dominate the list of most challenging high schools, according to Jay Mathews’ 2016 index.

BASIS Oro Valley, an Arizona charter school, ranks first on the Challenge Index with the highest percentage of students taking the Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate and/or Cambridge tests. Other BASIS schools rank second and fourth.

BASIS also has three schools in the top 10 of the U.S. News list of best high schools, which is based on test scores and graduation rates.

Ninth-graders can take AP Chemistry at BASIS Oro Valley in Arizona.

Ninth-graders can take AP Chemistry at BASIS Oro Valley in Arizona.

Mathews designed the Challenge Index to identify “schools that have done the best job in persuading average students to take college-level courses and tests.” That’s why he doesn’t look at passing rates, which reward schools that restrict AP/IB/Cambridge to top students. He created a separate “public elites” index for schools that enroll “a high concentration of top students.”

Charters, which are 7 percent of high schools nationwide, make up one third of the top 100 schools on the list.

Skilled teachers can show show even “habitual slackers” that “struggling with a challenging course is less boring than sitting through a painfully slow remedial course,” Mathews believes.

At IDEA charter schools in Texas, where most students come from low-income Mexican-American families. 99 percent of graduates go on to college.

At IDEA charter schools in Texas, where most students come from low-income Mexican-American families. 99 percent of graduates go on to college.

I’m not sure I agree that all or most students belong in what are supposed to be college-level courses, especially if the “average kid” is now a remedial “slacker?” But some schools are getting students to take and pass high-level courses.

“In some of the poorest parts of Texas,” six schools in the IDEA Public Schools charter network made the top 50 on the Challenge Index, he writes. At 11th-ranked IDEA College Mission, for example, 91 percent of students qualify for a free or subsidized lunch.

Last year they had AP test participation rates twice as high as those of affluent public schools such as McLean and Whitman high schools, or private schools such as National Cathedral and Holton-Arms.

. . . Low-income students who take AP courses “are significantly more likely to graduate from college than students who never take an AP course,” said Michael Franco, the network’s vice president for secondary school programs.

The network has increased pass rates while expanding access, Franco told Mathews. “Last year, 81 percent of our seniors graduated with AP credit.”

The AP/IB challenge gap

Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) courses could help close the “high-end achievement gap” —  if more low-income, black and Latino students take these rigorous courses, concludes Finding America’s Missing AP and IB Students. The report is by the Education Trust and Equal Opportunity Schools.

Low-income students are one-third as likely to enroll in AP as their middle and high-income classmates. While 25.1 percent of Asian-American students take at least one AP course, that drops to 11.9 percent for whites, 9 percent for Latinos and 6 percent for blacks.

Ninety-one percent of public high school students attend schools that offer AP courses.

. . .  preparation prior to high school is part of the problem, and the nation’s schools need to work hard on that. But a recent analysis of PSAT scores by the College Board suggests there are far more students who have the potential to be successful, but are not enrolling. The College Board found that 72 percent of black students and 66 percent of Hispanic students whose PSAT scores suggested they had the potential to be successful in an AP math course, as well as 69 percent of black students and 65 percent of Hispanic students whose scores suggested they had the potential to be successful in an AP science course, were left out of the program.

San Jose Unified has doubled AP participation rates for under-represented subgroups, the report finds.

In Washington state, the Federal Way went beyond open access to AP and IB courses. Now  automatically enroll students who scored proficient or better on the state exam are enrolled automatically in AP or IB.

Teachers found that some of the new AP/IB students didn’t need additional supports to be successful in AP/IB — they had been ready all along — but others did. Schools relied on the Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) program that was already in place . . . the district extended instructional coaching support to ensure teachers were capable of meeting the demands of their new classes, offering techniques and strategies for differentiating lessons to reach all their students.

The Road to Equity: Expanding AP Access and Success for African-American Students, a new report by the Broad Foundation, looks at six urban districts where more black students are passing AP exams.

IB adds career certificates

International Baccalaureate, known for challenging academic diplomas, will offer career certificates in subjects such as engineering, culinary arts, business and automotive technology.

 

Study: Common Core aligns with leading standards

The new Common Core Standards are aligned to leading state and international standards, concludes an analysis by the Educational Policy Improvement Center (EPIC) in Eugene,Oregon.

Researchers compared the content and curriculum standards for California and Massachusetts; the Texas College and Career Readiness Standards, the International Baccalaureate standards and the Knowledge and Skills for University Success.

The new common standards cover the same topics and content, but demand “a bit more cognitive complexity in some topics, particularly English/language arts,” the report says.

The study checks whether Common Core’s contents matches the comparison set, but doesn’t say “whether everything in the comparison set is found in the Common Core,” writes  Ze’ev Wurman in the comments.

This is akin to writing a bunch of fragments on a paper and then claiming that since most of the fragments are found among Shakespeare’s works, hence that page is “aligned” with, and “as rigorous as” Shakespeare’s works.

. . . Yet another example Common Core sponsored advocacy research, paid for by Bill Gates.

Also in comments, Sandra Stotsky, who led Massachusetts’ standards initiative, quotes a critique by the Massachusetts Department of Education, which questioned the rigor of Common Core’s high school math and English standards.

 

IB grows and grows

Today, more than 111,00 students around the world will get their International Baccalaureate exam results, notes the New York Times. Only 2 percent of U.S. high schools offer I.B. classes, but nearly 7 percent of U.S. college applicants earn the credential.

I.B. started in Switzerland in the 1960’s. It keeps growing.

In a survey being issued Monday university admissions officers in Britain, the United States and Europe were asked to compare their own country’s secondary school qualification with the I.B. in nine different categories including business skills, communication skills, creativity, the ability to cope with pressure and detailed knowledge of a subject. British admissions officers rated the A-level superior in assessing detailed knowledge of a subject. However in every other category the I.B. was rated either equal or superior to other qualifications.

U.S. admissions officers were asked to compare the I.B. with a high school diploma. Selective colleges “view a diploma as a minimal requirement,” writes the Times. Grades, test scores and Advanced Placement results determine admission. Successful candidates “have taken the most demanding subjects offered by their particular school,” says Christopher Watson, dean of undergraduate admissions at Northwestern.