Jay Mathews has an article in the Washington Post today about a “daring” school in Arlington that requires all students to take “at least one AP or International Baccalaureate course and test.” He begins with the story of two freshmen who wanted to drop their AP class because it was too hard. The principal refused. In the end, the students “stayed and did well in the course.” It was a story to warm the Birkenstocks on any lefty dreamer.
But there’s a problem with forcing everyone to take AP classes. If everyone takes the advanced class, then it’s no longer an advanced class. In fact, the only way to get everyone through the advanced class is to dumb it down for the weakest students. Children understand this. But adults, for some reason, convince themselves that everyone can be above average. If only we spend more money.
Matthews continues the story about the daring school by quoting the AP teacher who said that “the point was not to pass the AP exam but to improve her students’ reading, writing and debating skills.”
That’s all well and good for the underperforming students. Their reading skills probably need to be improved. But this is terrible news for the high performing students who already have excellent reading and writing skills. They’re in the AP class to prepare for the exam, and we owe it to them to do everything possible to get them ready for that test. If these students aren’t being challenged to prepare for what their teacher dismisses as a mere “testing opportunity,” then they’re being cheated.
AP classes are for advanced students who need to prepare for an exam, and social engineering experiments have no place there. Rather than redefining the AP class, the school should raise the standards in its regular class to improve the “reading, writing and debating skills” of those students who will not be taking the AP exam.