My son is a senior at a high school that loathes Advanced Placement classes. The school administrators believe that AP classes provide students with knowledge that’s a mile wide and an inch deep. Considering that AP classes demand a lot of memorization and must be taught at a breathless pace to get through the material, I’d have to agree.
Students attending schools that don’t offer AP classes, however, can be at a disadvantage because they may not get the same opportunities to inflate their grade point averages. An “A” in an AP class gives a student a 5.0 for the class rather than the typical 4.0.
High GPAs are golden because that’s what colleges are most interested in seeing on a student’s application. Ask any admission counselors and they’ll tell you that a GPA is more important than an applicant’s SAT or ACT scores.
Parents at my son’s school aren’t screaming about the lack of AP classes because it offers honors classes that also generate the much desired 5.0 grade. What concerns me, however, is why some students are taking AP or honors classes. I’d suggest that a lot of kids are enrolling in these classes to boost their GPAs rather than to learn more advanced material.
That’s certainly what seems to be happening in my son’s calculus class this semester. He’s taking honors calculus, but so are a lot of other kids who don’t even know how to factor. To survive this class some of these teenagers are getting Ben to explain the lessons and just as often they are cheating.
I think Ben’s school and others with an open door policy for honors and AP classes are setting many kids up to cheat and perform badly. At these schools, students can get into advanced classes even if they are unprepared. It’s part of an open enrollment movement shamefully encouraged by Newsweek, which issues an annual list of the best public high schools that’s based on the percentage of seniors taking AP exams. You’d think the magazine would be more interested in measuring whether high schools are doing a superlative job of teaching students of all abilities rather than rewarding those which herd the most kids into AP classes — as if that’s some kind of accomplishment all by itself.
Lynn O’Shaughnessy is the author of The College Solution, an Amazon.com bestseller.