President Obama’s Address to the Students

I don’t understand what all of the controversy was about this past week as the President prepared to address the nation’s school children. Last I checked, he is the president. I think it is great that he desires to encourage students to work hard at all things they do. Students need encouragement, and who better than the President of the United States.

From what I have read, he chose a great school from which to make his address. Wakefield High School in Arlington has worked hard to encourage students to give it there all. The AP program continues to grow there and has had great success with its students. Here’s a quote from a NY Times Blog : Continue reading President Obama’s Address to the Students →

AP Programs are Growing in Kentucky

AP programs across the country are experiencing rapid growth as schools open their programs to more students. Students are seeing Advanced Placement courses as a chance to bolster their college application while at the same time having the possibility of receiving college credit. Meanwhile, schools are seeing  AP courses as a way to attract students in the day of increased school choice. Here’s an article from WKYT in KY demonstrating this phenomenon:

Officials with the advance k-y program are seeing test scores of advance placement classes increase for twelve schools, three of them in Eastern Kentucky.

North Laurel, South Laurel, and Corbin Independent High Schools are all seeing increases in both enrollment and qualifying scores. One student at North Laurel says she’s pleased with the results.

Erica Mamauag has fifteen college credit hours just from taking AP courses.

“I was extremely excited I screamed when my mom called and told me,” Mamauag says. “It’s just going to help me so much in my freshmen year of college just not having to do the same classes over again.”

Results from the program at North Laurel High School show they met their five year goal the first year of the program with 54 qualifying scores. Their expectation was 31.

Director of Postsecondary Education for the Laurel County Schools, Monica Stevens says, “From last year, we improved 48-percent over the previous year, so the program has definitely been a boost for our students.”

Stevens says this program is helping in them in the long run.

“With this program, we’re going to have students that will be finishing high school with enough college credit accumulated that they will enroll as sophomores in college,” Stevens says.

Mamauag credits her teacher’s willingness to help.

“At least one of them stayed after everyday, after school from like February until the test,” Mamauag says.

AP English Teacher Rebecca McArdele says, “These kids have been here on Saturdays and after school working with their teachers. Doing all day prep sessions on the weekend. And it has all paid off.”

Mamauag wants to go to college to be a pediatric oncologist. She hopes having some college credit will get her in to the school she wants to go to.

“My top choices right now are Vanderbilt and Centre probably,” Mamauag says.

And after her senior year, she could have as many as 27 college credit hours heading in to

North laurel also had 127 students take the a-p exam last school year, up from 50 two years ago.
The Advance KY program is expanding to 15 more schools, including two more in eastern Kentucky, Johnson central and Paintsville.

The two Big Sandy schools will be a part of next year’s results.

Total Registration, LLC helps several KY high schools register students for AP exams online.  As some Kentucly schools’ AP programs increase, the workload stays the same as Total Registration does the time consuming task of exam registration.

Newsweek’s Top High Schools

Every year, Newsweek Magazine releases its “America’s Top Public High Schools” – http://www.newsweek.com/id/201160.  The schools are ranked by a very simple formula, the number of AP, IB or Cambridge Exams a school gives divided by the number of graduating seniors.  The schools are then ranked in descending order by this ratio.

Many have questioned the validity of this ranking system.  This calculation definitely favors schools with a small graduating class compared to its other classes (obviously graduating less students would not be considered a good attribute).  This calculation only takes into account the number of exams administered, and not the scores achieved.  Thus states who insist that all students in AP courses take the exams, or states/districts/schools who pay for students to take exams will typically rank higher than they would if students were to choose whether to take the exam and pay the exam fee.

One thing about the ranking is true, it is a way to rank schools nationally.  There are arguably better ways to rank schools, but until someone takes the time to develop it and publish it, we have this.

Merit Pay For Teachers – Based on AP Scores?

Here’s an article from the Boston Globe about merit pay for teachers based off AP scores.

TEACHERS UNIONS see red on the subject of merit pay. But the results released yesterday on a bold education experiment suggest that paying teachers for performance helps in preparing students for college-level work.

In 2007, the nonprofit Mass Insight Education and Research Institute won a five-year, $13.2 million grant funded primarily by ExxonMobil Corp. to recruit, train, and reward teachers for Advanced Placement classes in math, science, and English at 10 local high schools. College-level AP courses are the gold standard in high schools where students who earn qualifying scores stand out in the admissions process and earn college credits. Mass Insight is proving that these courses are manageable for kids who otherwise might balk at the challenge.Last year’s results are dramatic. Teachers boosted AP enrollment at the schools by more than 500 students. Passing scores shot up by 39 percent, 11 times the state average. Among students from low-income families, the total number of passing scores jumped 57 percent to 254. Teachers unions should be ecstatic over the proof that good teaching can yield measurable results. But in some cases they are apoplectic because the initiative pays AP teachers bonuses of up to $3,000 based on their ability to increase enrollment and raise scores. In the urban schools, teachers also can receive an additional $100 for each student who scores a 3 or higher on the 5-point AP exam.

Union grievances, grousing, and arbitration hearings now litter what should be a fresh pathway for educators. Morton Orlov, who runs the Mass Insight initiative, has sufficient funds to add 14 new schools to the program this year. But only 12 will participate after teachers in Dartmouth and Leominster rejected the offer. Milton has dropped out. Boston and Worcester teachers unions are challenging the program in formal proceedings. And the Massachusetts Teachers Association is urging its locals to reject the program unless the bonuses are given to support scholarship funds or school supplies, not individual teachers.

The MTA, like most teachers unions, believes that rewarding teachers based on performance will create divisions in its bargaining units. The unions are putting their narrow interests ahead of their own best members and students. It is an unacceptable stance for a group of educators. Mass Insight has landed on something that works. And personal awards are an intrinsic part of the program. Leave it to future researchers to unpack how much of the success is due to the intensive teacher training and how much is due to bonus pay. For now, it would be enough for teachers unions to simply get out of the way and let their most ambitious members and students soar.

From the comments on the Globe’s site, people were very upset with the teacher’s union for fighting this. At first glance, it might seem that this is a great way to rate and reward teachers. The problem is that not all teachers teach AP courses, and other courses do not have a national exam to compare the results of . There is also the slight problem that AP students tend to be very driven and these particular students were also given a financial incentive. This is not the case in most classes. The concept of merit pay is interesting, but would be very hard to implement.

Fordham Institute’s Survey of AP Teachers

The Fordham Institute surveyed AP teachers from across the country about the recent rapid growth of the Advanced Placement program. In general, teachers seemed concerned about the recent growth in the AP program and why the growth is occurring.

Here are some of the findings from this survey.

Findings

In a nutshell, the nation’s AP teachers told us that, even though they believe that the program’s quality is holding up in the face of tremendous expansion, they also see troubling signs in their classrooms from students who overestimate their abilities and parents who are overeager to see their kids in AP courses.

Six key findings follow:

1. The AP Program’s tremendous growth is largely driven by student demand. Students appear, however, to be focused on AP for utilitarian or pragmatic reasons, not intellectual aspirations.

a. Ninety percent of AP teachers say AP is growing because there are more students who want their college applications to look better.

b. Only 32% attribute AP growth to more students who want to be challenged at a higher academic level.

2. AP’s growth is also boosted by district and school policies. High schools seek to burnish their reputations by showcasing AP; they’ve mostly done away with gatekeeping (the practice whereby school personnel recruited some students into AP and discouraged or ignored others) for the program.

a. Seventy-five percent of AP teachers believe that high schools are expanding their AP program to improve their school’s ranking and reputation in the community.

b. Sixty-nine percent report that their high school’s AP classes are generally open to any student who wants to take them. Only 29% say there are limits on access, such as GPA or teacher approval.

3. The overall quality of the AP Program remains strong, despite its growth. Teachers report that course rigor, exam integrity, and student scores have changed little in the last several years.

a. More than three in four (77%) rate their own high school’s program as good (52%) or excellent (25%).

b. Fifty-nine percent say that the level of difficulty and complexity of the material covered in the AP courses they teach has stayed about the same; 27% say it has become more difficult.

c. Only 18% report that their students’ AP exam scores have been declining in the past five years.

4. But there are warning signs that the quality of the AP program is threatened, mostly because of concerns about declining student aptitude and skills.

a. Over half (56%) of teachers believe that too many students overestimate their abilities and are in over their heads. Sixty percent think that many parents push their children into AP classes when they really don’t belong there.

b. Teachers are considerably more likely to report a decline in the quality of their AP students in terms of their aptitude and capacity to do the work than to say that student quality has improved (39% to 16%); 43% say it has stayed about the same.

c. More than six in ten (63%) believe that conducting more screening of students to ensure that they are ready to do AP-level work before they get in those classrooms would improve the program.

5. AP teachers regard AP exams as legitimate assessments of learning that safeguard quality — a sharp and intriguing contrast to most K-12 teachers’ unenthusiastic attitudes toward standardized tests and assessment-based education quality control in general.

a. Nine in ten AP teachers believe that AP exams effectively maintain the quality of coursework (86%) and are aligned well with curriculum and course objectives (90%).

b. Eight in ten believe that the AP exam helps to motivate and focus students (81%) and that AP exam scores at least partly reflect how well they teach (78%).

c. In contrast, a 2006 Public Agenda study showed that only 18% of public school teachers believe that standardized tests are necessary and valuable. Sixty-two percent called them “a necessary evil“ and 19% thought that they do much more harm than good. Another 71% of public school teachers overall believe that students are required to take too many standardized tests. Only 27% said that things are about right.

6. AP teachers working in the nation’s poorest schools — where more than 75% of students are eligible for free or reduced price lunches report dismal student performance on the AP exam. Only 25% of these teachers say that most of their students score 3 or better on the AP exams, compared with 70% of teachers in low-poverty schools.