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2006-06-27 - 4:53 p.m.

I read the newsletter from my son's school in which the principal attacked AP CLASSES with the title of his writing
"Can regular students be acknowledged?"
or something similar in which the LOW SELF ESTEEM COMPLEX which is indicative of BUFFALO came thorough and he basically came across as insecure about his school! In insecurity since THEY DON't OFFER AP he of course had to attack it! But his attacks were outdated and demonstrated a real misunderstanding of why AP has become more popular.
HEre is my response:
I think the article "advanced, yes, placement no" was right on point that indeed AP classes in science in particular are indeed a poor substitute for college level science classes. However that doesn't mean they shouldn't be offered as while that may be true it is also true that students who take those classes are ALSO the most prepared to suceed in college math and science programs! (Even if they DO have to take Chemistry 101 as the AP class didn't cut it!) .

Because of that I think however it doesn't make the inclusion of AP classes not valuable or relevant for you to consider in BPVA's curriculum, but ratherI think it makes these classes MOST valuable in an arts school. We should Not ASSUME that there are not students at BPVA who have aptitude and interest in persuing science (and they would indeed not be served by THINKING that they are really ahead of the game with an AP class in Chem and then talking Organic Chem in college and failing as they really were not prepared, but could be well served to know AP CHEM sets them up to be most prepared for a college CHEM program)--

And as for those students who have no interest in persuing math and science in college, students who are gifted in the arts however certainly may have aptitude and ability to suceed at AP science classes which in fact WOULD BE A HUGE benefit to them if they indeed then do get actual credit which saves money and time. It is not an exaggeration that taking AP classes can really be a cost saving benefit. I know as I cut out a half year of classes due to my AP classes, which was not insignificant as I ended up paying for my college education.

Ironically those AP classes which were actually through St.John's University in my area happened to be in Music Theory, The Symphony, Composition and Philosophy 101 - and were 12 less credits I had to pay for toward a degree in English Lit and Philosophy.

Just to give a perspective that you might want to think about how advanced placement college classes may actually have a place within your school- and it needn't be in any traditional way other schools see them. It might be to ASSIST those who INTEND on going on in the arts to have less distraction with math and science later (knowing that if they are bright but they KNOW they aren't going into those areas that taking some things NOW might enable them to be more successfull in focusing later- as perhaps some students would benefit in college by taking FOUR classes more managably than FIVE, and others might realize substantital cost savings by finishing early!) , Or there might be a place at BPVA to develop a relationship with a local college in offering credit for courses that are taught in the arts which meet college level criteria! (As the music program at my HS did) AP classes are not limited in what subject areas they can be offered in!

I also think that it really essential that in accepting students for those type of opportunitied that teachers do look at multiple intellegences. I think that is done more often now than traditionally which is in fact why there is a huge increase in the number of kids in AP across the board, as the criteria to get in is not currently typically all test scores. The current climate is to acknowledge and allow children with other gifts to be into those classes that in the past were only reserved for those who tested highest. A rubric is often now used that includes a portfolio compiled of test scores as well as teacher recommendations, and parent and student input as well as special projects or preformances or work students have done both in and out of school. I think the recent increase in interest in AP is in fact indicative not of educationally turning of backs to Howard Gardner's theories but rather of not only accepting them but finally embracing them.! By doing so there are MANY MORE students given opportunities for "AP" than before. I think that the social perception of AP as including all the "smart" kids indeed has changed as the very notion of what is smart has changed! Its not that those not in AP are not considered smart, but that taking AP indeed HAS BECOME MORE ACCESSIBLE and therefore more of the AVG itself! In opening up access to those opportunities which in the past WERE based on the very linear and closed thinking of only valuing test scores, I think that the notion of AP has become one of pride for students but no longer a socially statifying and defining thing like it was in the past.

But most importantly I think that AP does offer the best esteem building confidence in a student's belief in him or herself in regard to his or her ability to succeed in college.

And as such I think it a defensive posture to try to devalue AP which I see as being done by those schools that don't CURRENTLY offer such opportunities. I think that AP classes essentially are just that- an additional opportunity and in fact deserve to be available in ALL SUBJECT AREAS for ALL STUDENTS who indeed have unique gifts and an area they each excel at.

The college board reports that there is a positive correlation between students taking AP classes and succeeding in college.

I think that we should ASSUME that among the students at BPVA this is an opportunity that students and their parents might WELCOME if they realize that it is one that is indeed now available to students just like them! Yes regular students with unique gifts! AP class in ART , or AP class in Photography, AP Music Theory etc are things that I think the teachers themselves might ENJOY developing . The whole idea of AP is an opportunity for teachers to shine in a particular focused area that they might love to teach to a smaller group but for which there is not the demand of a larger class or the necessity of a larger class in the curriculum. You might be surprised if floated by the teachers that some would embrace such and idea as a very motivating and personally rewarding opportunity FOR THEM. I think that the place to start would be to communicate with colleges about what liasons they already have with schools and if they don't have any it shouldn't be that hard to develop.

I really think that to not jump on the bandwagon of valuing AP really comes across as being a bit out of touch and stuck IN THE OLD CONCEPTION of what it was and not open to the positive changes that have taken place. It comes across as the big fear of the unkown, so that human nature "fight or flight" mechanism takes over. In this case BPVA can fight and argue AP is not of value or use the flight mechanism and run away from consideration of it- but I really think to do so it to allow the school to be opposed to consideration of what could be a really valuable positive change out of fear that you are not being thought of as good enough! It seems that it is a defensive posture-- as in "We're fine! we don't have AP- but those schools that do are not better!"

Rather I think that BPVA SHOULD COME ACROSS AS PROUD of the amazing place you are! But don't be so proud that the suggestion of any constructive criticism is ignored and so are any opportunitys for growth!

I really think that FEAR of not being able to succeed at inclusion of AP in your school and/ or FEAR of Change are both things to be avoided and that the strengths and assets of both the teachers and student at BPVA should be recognized AS THOSE WHICH COULD MAKE INTRODUCING AN AP CURRICULUM to your school an exciting thing that would be energizing and maximize everyone's gifts. Every one of the articles cited in your newsletter can be looked at in light of the question " How could AP classes be incorporated into our curriculum to benefit our students?"

When looked at in that light, I think you might find that indeed there are exciting possibilities. And if you poll parents and/or students and ask if they would support a program that can cut out a whole semester of college tuition and assist in preparing their children or themselves for success in college, I think you'll be hard pressed to find a naysayer.

Because the real trend is that YES REGULAR STUDENTS ARE FINALLY NOW GETTING CREDIT- and the college credits and financial benefits that FORMERLLY were only offered to those who tested very high!

Attesting to that new trend which started among progressive schools years ago I was ranked 178 out of 181 graduating seniors, with AVG SAT and below AVG grades and had to TALK MY WAY INTO my AP classes in those areas of my gifts, demonstrating proficeny despite past preformance as fortunatly an audition was also a big part of the admission criteria. I was SO EXCITED about college because of those classes that demonstrated that college study in things I loved would be manageable! If it were not for the BELIEF in me of those teachers of those areas I excelled in- and the fact I succeeded in those AP classes that taught me most of all BELIEF IN MYSELF I may not have become the college graduate I am today!

Its about time that not only REGULAR students, but even those of us who were at one time AT THE BOTTOM OF THE RANKING based on academic measures of tests and grades, are being offered chances for success! AP has indeed done that! In schools that offer AP it is not now unusual that there will be students in a specific class who do not appear to be good students across the board but who are now offered the opportunity to succeed in that one area of aptitude to the greatest extent they can and recognized for it. That just never happened years ago!

Thanks for you most interesting comments on this topic which I think is one BPVA does need to have discourse about!

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