AP for all or success for none?

Babies excited to take their first steps first
try out their legs by crawling. Painters looking to become modern-day
Michelangelos start honing their craft by mixing colors. And high school
students desirous of taking college-level English courses, like those
offered by the Advanced Placement program, first learn basic grammar and
writing. Yet this
fundamental concept of sequential progress is too often lost in the “AP
fervor”
that currently grips American high schools. This week’s case in point is
Boston
English High, a struggling school (among the nation’s worst) with
big-time AP
enrollment (within Beantown, it’s second only to Boston Latin). The
story of
how its AP enrollment surged is instructive. Rather than carefully
preparing
pupils for the rigor of challenging twelfth-grade classes (starting in
middle
school or before), English’s teachers and administrators instead
force-enrolled
students with “potential” in AP courses. This meant an infusion of
under-prepared pupils into what should be the most rigorous English
course
offered at the school—and not surprisingly, many of them floundered. Of
course
there are benefits to introducing lower-achieving students to motivated
peers,
quality AP teachers, and rigorous, stimulating content. But when “AP for
All”
is implemented in a hurry, without attention to preparing students over
the
long haul to succeed in it, the
costs far outweigh the benefits
.

A
lesson in Advanced mis-Placement
,” by Junia Yearwood, Boston Globe, April 25, 2011.

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