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Does “advanced” have to mean “better”?

by Elena on Dec 21st, 2009

10WolfsonHigh022108On the New York Times’s “Room for Debate” blog, a daily topic is offered up to a panel of experts for commentary, and yesterday they were talking about the “Advanced Placement Juggernaut.” A.P. classes have been offered to high school students for fifty years now, but in the past five their enrollment has increased by 50 percent. The program is nearly universally accepted as a good thing, and it’s particularly well-liked by college admissions officers. But some researchers and educators call its value into question.

Trevor Packer, who represents the College Board in the Times’s discussion, argues that the only problem with Advanced Placement is how few minority and underserved students have access to AP classes. He says:

…studies have indicated that teachers’ preconceived notions of student potential are often at odds with student capability. We should applaud teachers willing to take on students whom others had pre-judged as lacking in potential, not just those interested in teaching students who are likely to earn a 5 on an A.P. test.

Of course, as teacher Patrick Welsh notes, the College Board has a vested interest–in the way of $86 per A.P. exam administered–in the steady increase of A.P.’s popularity across all demographics. And researcher Kristin Klopfenstein points out that many students hoping to get into selective colleges enroll in A.P. classes without taking the final exam. Because many high schools weight the grades of students enrolled in A.P. classes, students know that A.P.s will not only look good on their transcripts, they’ll also boost their class ranks.

We recently covered the success of BASIS charter schools in Arizona, where they credit much of their success to a heavy focus on A.P. coursework. Are college-level classes the key to successful learning in high school? Let us know what you think.

The Advanced Placement Juggernaut [NYT, 12/20/09]

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Around-the-web Wednesdays: Duncan on Colbert, and more

by Amanda on Oct 7th, 2009

Here are some stories worth sharing this week:

The Colbert Report Mon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Arne Duncan
Colbert Report Full Episodes Political Humor Michael Moore

Will it take Comedy Central’s coverage for the US to take education reform seriously? Or is everyone just infatuated with the idea of playing basketball with President Obama? If you missed it, click above to watch Arne Duncan on Colbert Nation. [Colbert Report, 10/5/09]

Race to the Top was formally announced this week and Secretary Duncan put the call out for applicants to “show us their best evidence that their programs will boost student learning.” With $650 million to spend, the administration is literally banking on innovation. [NY Times, 10/6/09]

Secretary Duncan’s attention was temporarily diverted back to his old hometown, Chicago, where he and Attorney General Eric Holder appeared in solidarity with a community outraged by the recent death of a high school student by a group of youths outside a community center. [NPR, 10/7/09]

In higher ed news, the Senate is holding hearings on a measure to increase the maximum Pell grant amount - currently $5,350. The House recently passed the measure. [Philadelphia Inquirer, 10/6/09]

In Washington, D.C., recent layoffs of over 220 teachers — including one ‘exceptional’ teacher from Anacostia, a high school we’ve been covering for the past two years– has the community up in arms and Chancellor Michelle Rhee defending her tough choices. [Washington Post, 10/6/09]

Rhee and the D.C. teachers union have yet to sign a contract after two years of negotiations - a fascinating dance you can listen to here. [LMTV, 9/21/09]

A new U.S. Census Bureau shows how Latina moms are changing the perception of the nation’s stay-at-home mothers. [NPR, 10/6/09]

And in commentary this week, John Merrow asks: How does geography determine one’s digital destiny? Should schools be doing more? [Taking Note, 10/6/09]


Wednesday: A Weekly Look at Some Big Stories

by Amanda on Aug 5th, 2009

Bloomberg, Klein and Weingarten Celebrate Gains in Mathematics

by Amanda on Jun 2nd, 2009

sesamestreetNYC public schools just announced statewide test results, and proudly reported significant gains in mathematics — 82% of 3-8th graders passed the test, up from 74% and 57% three years ago. (Statewide, 86% passed this year, 81 last year; national scores will not be released until the fall).

The test results brought unanimous praise from Mayor Bloomberg, schools Chancellor Joel Klein and Teachers’ Union head Randi Weingarten–leaders not known for always agreeing on the issues.

There are some critics, however, who claim that better performance and higher pass rates in testing doesn’t necessarily indicate an increase in competence, and that far too many NYC students are still entering the CUNY system needing remediation in math and writing as college freshman. But the gains in the achievement gap — the scores of Black and Hispanic students versus those of white students — were welcomed as good news.

New York City Shows Gains in Math [New York Times]

Mike Has the Look of a Winner [New York Post]

Related Content: Mayoral Control [EdBeat]

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