Saturday, May 24, 2014
To AP, or not to AP, that is the question.....
Heard around town: why is Melrose High now offering Advanced Placement (AP) classes to underclassmen and why are more students in all grades being encouraged to participate in AP offerings? Great question! If parents or community members want the facts around this decision, please get in touch with Principal Farrell, Department Chairs, or Guidance – they are happy to talk with you. In the meantime, here are some thoughts from my perspective (as parent of a Class of 2014 college grad, rising college sophomore, and HS junior)………
· What is AP? AP courses are standardized courses/tests in a variety of subjects that are provided by The College Board (a non-profit who also brings us the SAT) and that are expected to reflect extensive rigor. Here’s the link: http://apcentral.collegeboard.com/home.
· Why is it important? Because when colleges look at a student’s application, one criterion for admittance decisions is “Rigor of Secondary School Record” and all colleges look at it. To see how it might work, check out one of my go-to college databases, www.collegedata.com, and type in any school. Click on the “Admissions” tab and scroll down to “Selection of Students.” The rigor criterion is almost always in the “Very Important” column. A May 4th Boston Globe article explains this concept very well; find it here: http://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/regionals/west/2014/05/03/exams-near-more-students-ready-for-challenge/Nsk2jWPTPyHgjdt9NDcKtN/story.html.
· How would a college measure “Rigor of Secondary School Record?” One way is to look at a student’s course selections to assess the level at which success is probable and determining whether the student chose to accept the challenge of more rigorous work (i.e. if a student took 9th gr. English CP and earned an A, did the student move up to the Honors level in 10th gr.?). With AP, colleges will look at what AP courses the school offers, assess whether a student might have been successful in that placement, and if so, whether it was chosen.
· What if MHS doesn’t offer as many AP’s as other high schools? Colleges approach this quandary by reviewing the School Profile (find MHS’s here: http://melrosehigh.melroseschools.com/our-school/2013-2014-school-profile/), and considering whether a student took rigorous courses within what a school offers. The profile is updated each year and sent to each college by the guidance dept. in conjunction with each application.
· Should my child bulk up on AP courses just to be competitive in the application process? Parents should talk to their child about their interests and aspirations. (Guidance does this too.) Does your child really like math? Foreign language? Art? When you look at his/her middle school grades, are there ways to challenge him/her in certain areas when entering 9th grade? Parents should partner with guidance and the student to ensure that all credit requirements are met for graduation while considering what the student enjoys and encouraging the student to challenge him/herself in areas where evidence shows he/she can succeed.
· What should parents expect from MHS? The high school should be offering a variety of courses that provide opportunities at all levels in as many subject areas as possible (within fiscal constraints). Teachers should be as well-trained as possible to provide the kind of instruction that will support good outcomes on the AP exams.
Over the years, I’ve heard folks opine that the high school wasn’t rigorous enough, and one way administrators are addressing that is by offering more AP courses at a wider variety of grade levels. As parents we often struggle with how to best help our children – more pressure or less rigor? Instead, maybe we should be asking MHS staff, our children, and ourselves “What are the most appropriate courses for my student, and what is the right level for each and every one?” In the end, the result should be a graduating senior who has found an authentic path paired with a transcript and college application that showcase each student’s unique skills and abilities. That’s what colleges want to see, and more importantly, that’s what makes for a rewarding next step in life’s big adventure.
Posted by Margaret Driscoll at 10:21 AM
Email ThisBlogThis!Share to TwitterShare to FacebookShare to Pinterest
MDittmerMay 24, 2014 at 8:19 PM
Instead of offering more AP courses and encouraging more students to take AP courses, even for freshman, our school admin should ensure that we have adequately trained teachers to teach these AP courses. Some parents have voiced their concern at previous school committee meetings that some of the teachers are not actually teaching at the AP level in these courses. Their concerns are further documented by AP test results form last year as summarized below.
Melrose results are not encouraging, as you can see, especially when breaking it down to general subject areas:
Only 38.1% of Foreign Language scores got a 3-5 (passing scores).
Only 46.4% of Science/Technology scores got a 3-5 (passing scores).
Only 43.5% of Biology scores got a 3-5 (passing scores).
Only 45.8% of Environmental Science scores got a 3-5 (passing scores).
Out of 7 test-takers, 0% of Chemistry scores got a 3-5 (passing scores).
Only 56.9% of Math/Computer Science scores got a 3-5 (passing scores).
Perhaps you can address this matter in a follow-up comment.
Margaret DriscollMay 25, 2014 at 6:31 AM
For all the reasons stated in my post (and corroborated by the Boston Globe), having more AP options available to students, and encouraging students to participate, helps support their college admissions. Melrose results as they stand certainly have room for improvement, but remember that when students enroll in an AP course, they commit to taking the exam while many other schools just allow students to take the course, skewing their test results to the highest performers. I completely agree that teachers should be adequately trained, and that shouldn't be limited to just AP courses. Every MHS teacher should have the training and support that allows for maximum learning in the classroom. Supt. Taymore and Asst. Supt. Adams have applied for and received the MMSI grant which is designed to support AP training in the areas of math and science. More importantly, they recently presented a comprehensive professional development plan (that included, as of last year, the return of Melrose's very successful Summer Institute). They requested significantly more PD than the budget could afford, but we were able to incorporate into the recently adopted teachers' contract more early release days that allow for training and collaboration that is intended to improve learning. AP tests have just finished for this year with results available in late July - I think we'll all look forward to seeing the results!
Lori A.May 26, 2014 at 10:54 AM
I very recently learned what a hot topic AP course offerings is in Melrose. The debate about whether or not Melrose High School should offer AP courses, is different than the debate of whether or not students should take the offered courses. I imagine the former debate involves determining adequate resources, which is appropriate for the school committee and personnel. The latter debate is best left to each family.
My family truly appreciates the option. I have two children, class of 2014 and class of 2018. Both have made decisions about AP courses for different reasons. Both have made the right decision for their academic needs and learning styles.
With regard to teachers instructing at the AP level, my thoughtful class of 2014 student felt the teachers had the knowledge, but questioned teaching skill. Teachers may have command of the subject matter, but not be skilled teachers and vice versa. Those are two different areas of necessary teacher training.
These are just my personal thoughts and experiences.
Margaret DriscollMay 26, 2014 at 6:05 PM
Thanks so much for your comment Lori, and I very much hope you bring your thoughts, as well as those of your 2014 graduate, to the principal and/or department chair(s)!
MD simply does not understand the issues. She clearly fancies herself as an expert, where she quite obviously cannot comprehend that she has been one of the principal obstacles to progress in this district for far too long. She takes no responsibility for her role in the miserable failures of the district when it comes to basic education for many years now. The Troubles are all because of "mandates" or orders from On-High, and she never gives a hint of humility about her quite sizable role on the school committee for several terms now, as chair, as the chair of the committee that hired this most recent superintendent, as policy chair, before that as Educational Policy and Personnel chair. Her pompous utterances (cloaked in drippy, disingenuous affectations of "respectfulness") show only that she loves wallowing in the educational jargon and being an official commandeering the sinking ship of this poor district. Her prose would make for great Monty Python material if only she were kidding.
Look at the doe website if you want to understand the real state of affairs for Melrose High School when it comes to Advanced Placement:
It's a sad picture that indicates dysfunction on a large scale. Melrose cannot compare even with many districts that have far more adversity and less per capita resource.
Instead of addressing the major problems (not only with AP courses), the administration flaunts its addition of new AP offerings as if this is something worthwhile. While the administration wrings its collective hands about budget woes, it boasts that certain grants and professional development offerings will fix the deficient curriculum and poor teaching (this is not even possible given the poor teaching staff and curriculum administration). It's all just sad and ridiculous, and no one in the administration seems to care that student lives are being affected in dire ways.
MD: "In the end, the result should be a graduating senior who has found an authentic path paired with a transcript and college application that showcase each student’s unique skills and abilities."
Ironic that she now uses the word "authentic," which is what Mr. Mroz has been imploring for years now, and which this SC member has clearly never respected. This woman wouldn't know the meaning of the word if it were drawn in big pictures. She's had many opportunities to demonstrate some humility and leadership, ask real questions, be honest about the problems, and instead she has pushed her weight around for an agenda that is quite obviously about herself and politics alone regardless of what it costs the students.
"For all the reasons stated in my post (and corroborated by the Boston Globe), having more AP options available to students, and encouraging students to participate, helps support their college admissions."
This is a specious argument, regardless of whether the Globe stated it or not.
Administrators/guidance at MHS actually RECRUITED students into AP, pushing students to sign up regardless of whether they or the teachers were qualified (and the data shows how many of them clearly were/are disastrous), which is wrong and harmful. There are plenty of real experts who have testified to this and could have been quoted if this woman had demonstrated an iota of actual scholarly research before providing her expansive and vastly undereducated remarks. Good questions and data from Mr. D!
AP courses at MHS=watching u tube videos and teaching themselves. AP courses keep more kids from graduating with honors. These courses hurt more than they help. Don't do it kids, it is not worth it. The offerings are for the Real Estate agents folks, do not delude yourselves.
MD's blog is virtually unreadable. She cannot seem to put together a sentence much less a coherent thought. She writes like she speaks - bs full of meaningless jargon. The fact that she feels comfortable posting this drivel with her name on it speaks volumes about her self obsessive and over the top vanity and lack of depth both intellectually and as a elected official.
"MD's blog is virtually unreadable. She cannot seem to put together a sentence much less a coherent thought. She writes like she speaks - bs full of meaningless jargon. The fact that she feels comfortable posting this drivel with her name on it speaks volumes about her self obsessive and over the top vanity and lack of depth both intellectually and as a elected official."
No wonder she is so comfortable with the hiring and retaining the cast of poorly educated administrators in the years she's served and always gives them gushy evaluations and praise. Some of them are just as narcissistic and crazed with their own sense of power, and nearly all of them have such poor basic communication skills that it's no wonder they resort to jargon because that's all they have.
Flipped on the tube for just long enough to hear some mention of yet another "communication plan" in the works. Who are these people kidding? Tweets are the most these fools can manage, but not even that if it's basic mandated interchange (don't even suggest ASPEN!) with their staff, parents, students, and the public because they can't manage simple return of phone calls.
There will be another round of "working group" garbage to formulate yet another silly "plan" to devise a plan to review and determine the results of the working group plan to implement and utilize the data before implementing another working group to utilize a final implementation of the Big Bones and Little Bones data teams that MASC recommended MD to do in some freaky dream of hers with intertwined rose-colored alphabetical lists of governmental acronyms.
Get her out of the city she is a harmful person.
She is a mean person to her co-workers.
I have no interest in hearing anything that comes out of Driscoll's mouth unless it's I'm stepping down...or taking a dirt nap...swimming with the fishes...but then that would be someone else cheering not her. I can live with that.