There are sound ways to encourage more students to enroll in AP classes. But the tack of Seattle's Roosevelt High School, which will require all its sophomores to take at least one AP course next year, is not one of them. The city's chief academic officer called Roosevelt's plan "a great idea for exposing students to all the rigorous thinking of an AP course" but neglected to consider that some high-school sophomores (those who cannot read, perhaps) are unprepared for such rigors. They will not do well in any AP class the standards of which live up to its labeling, and their presence will likely harm their peers who are prepared. A better approach is that of Duval County (Jacksonville), Florida, where high-school teachers target their AP selection by identifying students with unpolished academic potential and then nudge them into the tough classes. The teachers also provide those students with extra support. A danger exists, though: That AP classes may come to be seen less as places for the strongest students to soar--to engage in exhilarating academic lessons and lively discussion--than as tools for challenging moderately talented pupils. School leaders should hesitate before denying that the latter detracts from the former.
"All Roosevelt sophomores to take AP class," by Emily Heffter, Seattle Times, March 7, 2008
"Opening AP to All," by Catherine Gewertz, Education Week, March 12, 2008