Friday, August 27, 2010

An honest question

I'm hoping some of you readers might be able to answer a question for me. Has anyone heard of having an AP class made up of 9th graders? I'm not talking about a few gifted 9th graders taking a class with juniors or seniors. I mean a class of 9th graders taking an AP class.

We didn't have AP classes when I was in high school, so this is pretty new to me. Yes, I know this makes me terribly old, but it is true. Back in those days you got into college based on grades and SAT scores, and high schools were judged on the basis of...I don't know how we judged high schools. I only know "good" colleges recruited at Western and a reasonable number of kids were accepted and graduated from these schools. We had some advanced and high level courses, but the subject matter and curriculum was not based on a test that we would take. My impression (as a student) was that they were based on what teachers felt passionate about. I took "Russian Literature and Existentialism", "The History of Political Thought" and "Analytical Chemistry" in my senior year, if memory serves me. Somehow I survived.

I'm only asking because my understanding of AP classes is that you are doing college level work. I know my kid is smart and all, but I've got my doubts that she, and a whole class of her peers, are really going to do college level work at this point. 9th graders just don't have the practice to quickly spit out thoughtful essays. I'm worried enough about the middle school to high school transition. I know it's got her a bit nervous as well. She said to me, "I'm having second thoughts about this AP class." I responded that as no one had asked her if she wanted to take an AP history class in the first place, (and history is not her favorite or strongest subject) she can have as many thoughts as she wants, but they seem irrelevant.

It's hard not to be suspicious that this class is being driven by the fact that Newsweek says you can judge a high school by the number of AP classes it offers.


  1. It depends upon the subject. There's a collection of articles on AP Joanne Jacobs on Advanced Placement.

    Are all 9th graders cognitively capable of college-level work?

    Disclosure: I am a critic of advanced placement as a sign of a school's quality.

  2. Thanks for the comment and the link. After a quick purusal it seems like these are pretty pro-AP classes. So I guess you're more a critic of using AP as a sign of school quality (I put myself in that camp - seems like only one part of a much more complex picture to me) than anti-AP classes. I don't have enough experience to be pro or anti classes at this point. I just worry that classes that are all about teaching to a test have a risk of not letting teachers or students explore tangential interests.

    The class is world history since you ask.

  3. I don't know. We just opened it up to sophomores, mostly in an effort to increase scores. I'd be interested in reading research about the topic.

  4. I've heard of an "AP" history class for 9th graders at Poly. The students are not required to take the AP test, but the ones who did last year had pretty good results. The kids said it was a very rigorous course, but one that they enjoyed a lot. It also seemed to build some critical reading, writing, and study skills that they are in need of for future classes. Typically, these AP-type classes for 9th graders are optional, so now is the time to transfer out if it doesn't seem like a good fit.

  5. Thanks all for your comments and information. I hope I didn't come across sounding like I think this is a bad idea. I honestly don't feel like I know enough to make that kind of judgment. I know high school is a transitional period, and since kids are supposed to be making more decisions it's necessary that parents step back some. On the other hand there are always calls for involved parents and it might have been nice if something had gone out in the summer packets explaining these things.

    It's pretty early in the school year to make much of a guess about it, but my impression is there's an involved energetic teacher and my kid, though still nervous, seems to be into it. Seems like a great opportunity to me.

    One more question - why would you choose not to take an AP test at the end of the course? Does a poor score go against you? If not it would seem like the perfect way to objectively see how you did with no downside. I've got to assume that cost shouldn't be an issue - if you can't afford to pay for it I assume there's financial aide.


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