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I find this to be just lovely data that can hold its own as tit for tat with the city schools. However, do we have breakdowns regarding minority students and low SES students? If we are simply providing more opportunities for white, high SES students to succeed, what is really the point? Rubber stamps on the dominant culture?

Donna - Thank you for making that important point. We in the County also have a lot of work to do to close this part of the achievement gap.

In the report I mentioned, staff stated the following:
"Although the Division has had success in opening up access to college-level courses, there is still room for improvement in terms of diversifying the population of students who take AP courses and exams. Only 4% of the students taking AP exams in ACPS are black, while 13% of the students enrolled in ACPS high schools are black (see Table 1). There is also a gap between the percent of white students scoring three or higher and the percent of black students scoring three or higher on AP exams (see Figure 6)... Based on the data presented, the Division has identified three key challenges; (1) increasing the representation and success of minority and economically disadvantaged students in college-level courses, (2) ensuring the consistency of excellence across all college-level courses in the division, and (3) sustaining growth and maintaining excellence in college-level courses."

I also took the opportunity at the Board meeting when we received this report to point out how disappointed I was in the comparison of our division (4%) against the state average (8.5%) for African-American participation in AP exams. Brian Wheeler

Brian,

Just a few points of clarification regarding Advanced Placement coures and tests.

First, a score of 3 –– the college equivalent of a C –– doesn't necessarily earn a student college credit. Colleges, and especially the more selective colleges, are increasingly requiring a 4 or 5 on an AP test for credit.

Second, it seems that AP courses are becoming more of a separator between low-income and higher-income students. And some AP teachers, like Patrick Welsh at T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria, have observed that AP courses are becoming the new "segregators" between white and non-white students.

Third, several recent studies seem to indicate that AP courses and tests are –– like the SAT –– not what people often think they are. Many parents, students, and even educators, think the SAT actually measures something.....it doesn't (Okay, at best, it predicts about 15% of the variance in freshman year college grades, and after that, nothing!). A two-year study by the National Research Council (2002) found, for example, that AP courses are fast becoming the curency for college admissions, but if the goal(s) of advanced study is to "promote development of deep conceptual understanding and the ability to apply knowledge appropriately," and to promote and develop "critical reflection," then AP courses and tests fall short. Moreover, they do not generally comply with research-based principles of learning. Another study by Geiser and Santelices (2004) found that taking AP courses has "little or no relationship" to college performance......but AP courses are used to get into college. A third study by Klopfenstein and Thomas (2005) found that AP students "are generally no more likely than non-AP students to return for a second year in college or to have higher first-semester grade point averages." Finally, the recent (2006) Toolbox Revisited (Adelman) found no connection between AP enrollment and college completion. Further, Adelman wrote that "a spate of recent reports and commentaries on the Advanced Placement program (e.g., College Board 2005) claim that the original Tool Box demonstrated the unnique power of AP course work in explaining bachelor's degree completion. To put it gently, this is a misreading."

Finally, as the dean of the Stanford Univesity School of Education wrote (2002), "AP courses aroe not about learning. They are test preparatin courses.....that contradict everything we know about engaging instruction....students have no time to immerse themselves in a particular concept or topic......the demands of the courses create anxiety and take away from time spent on other important activities." Couple that with the findinig that most students do not use AP credits to reduce their time spent in college, and we are left with, what?

So, while AP might be good for some students in some courses, I am puzzled as to why it is being promoted as the panacea to some of the problems facing public education and public educators.

In addition to AP courses and dual-enrollment courses available thru PVCC, Albemarle County also offers its students the opportunity to take courses thru UVA. There are currently about 15 students who are taking UVA Calculus that is transmitted over the TV. This course is available to students who take "compacted math" as 6th graders or who double up on math courses while in high school. High school students who qualify are also able to take other UVa courses thru the Community Scholar program. My son finished AP English last year as a junior and so would not have had an English course to take as a senior. He is currently taking the 2nd semester of English Literature at UVa. This has been an excellent experience for him. I hope that all students who need this additional challenge are able to take advantage of the opportunites provided by living in a college town.

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