The economy’s down the drain, our schools are far behind the rest of the world, but at least we’ve got lots of AP takers!
Many districts have adopted policies for increasing “rigor” (a magical buzzword that makes everything better in education) that amount to forcing kids into classes they cannot handle. Color me elitist, but I think that only kids who are, you know, ready for college level material should take college level AP courses. Most high school sophomores are ready for, you know, HIGH SCHOOL level material. Only kids who are intellectually gifted (you know, those top few percent who are, um, nowhere near the average) should be identified as gifted and placed in GT classes.
So what are schools doing? They are forcing every sophomore to take at least 1 AP class. They are reaching gifted identificaiton rates upwards of 40%, then using this to “prove” that the gifted “label” is meaningless, and eliminating it altogether.
Pardon the language, but what the F***?! Who does this serve, exactly? It dumbs down the classes for kids who often are already not getting challenged, it forces unfair workloads on kids who really can’t handle much higher level work, and it means that rather than learning and getting ahead, the top kids are sitting at the back of the room reading a book if they’re lucky, or more often sitting there bored to tears for 6 hours a day. Top level kids’ reading scores sometimes actually REGRESS throughout the school year, and only recover and improve over the summer, when they aren’t exposed to school.
“Rigor” should be for each student, not an imaginary, moving target kid who’s a bit above average and exactly the same ability level in everything. One student’s rigorous curriculum is another student’s spirit crushing workload is another student’s easy-to-the-point-of-ridiculousness. One size fits all fits no one in education. Two sizes fit all is barely better. Individualized education for each child is not possible, but schools can and should be far, far more flexible than they are.
Instead “gifted” is reduced to meaninglessness by districts that use GT classes to “increase rigor.” In English, that means that they put kids who have no business being there, and would be much better off in an ordinary classroom, into GT classes to be able to brag about the number of kids in GT classes, and so force down the level of the GT classes, making them worthless to the students for whom the programs are supposed to exist.
And so what do we see? We see countless kids who are barely getting by in school, and even then only with tutors. I know a lot of kids in my acc and AP classes are getting tutored and still struggling (yes, I know, anecdotes are not evidence. I’m using them as examples, not evidence.). These aren’t kids who aren’t willing to put in the work (they work much, much harder than I do in many cases), but they’re simply in over their heads. I would guesstimate that 30% of my school’s kids taking science are in an acc or AP class. Roughly the same is true of my grade in AP US history. 30% of my grade is ready for college classes? Really? I don’t care if we’re talking about here in well off, ivy league Princeton, or the inner city. That simply is not the case.
All that happens is you get many of the kids overwhelmed, and too many of the rest bored. Having kids in AP and acc classes who shouldn’t be there forces teachers to water down the curriculum. I’m very smart, but there are other kids who are much, much smarter than me. If these classes leave me bored, I can only imagine what it’s like for them.
When kids are barely managing to keep grades up to a C even when working as hard as they can, getting extra help from the teacher, and often even getting a tutor, they are not ready for that class. If that’s elitist, then I’m happy to be elitist, but I’m of the school of thought that calls it “common sense.”