Tuesday, March 28, 2017
Advanced Placement Classes are Not a Scam, but Their Critics are Con Artists
[Previously, at WEJB/NSU: “The General Patton of the Testing Wars.”
By Nicholas Stix
My VDARE colleague Steve Sailer blogged on the following Atlantic rant from 2012.
Author John Tierney—not to be confused with the eponymous libertarian—maintains:
• “AP courses are not, in fact, remotely equivalent to the college-level courses they are said to approximate.”
• “The traditional monetary argument for AP courses -- that they can enable an ambitious and hardworking student to avoid a semester or even a year of college tuition through the early accumulation of credits -- often no longer holds.”
• “Despite the rapidly growing enrollments in AP courses, large percentages of minority students are essentially left out of the AP game.”
• “The AP program imposes ‘substantial opportunity costs’ on non-AP students in the form of what a school gives up in order to offer AP courses, which often enjoy smaller class sizes and some of the better teachers.”
• “To me, the most serious count against Advanced Placement courses is that the AP curriculum leads to rigid stultification -- a kind of mindless genuflection to a prescribed plan of study that squelches creativity and free inquiry. The courses cover too much material and do so too quickly and superficially. In short, AP courses are a forced march through a preordained subject, leaving no time for a high-school teacher to take her or his students down some path of mutual interest. The AP classroom is where intellectual curiosity goes to die.”
Let’s cut to the chase. Tierney hates AP classes because they make money for the College Board, which he hates. The College Board does a much better job than the public schools, which make hundreds of billions of dollars per year, but competence means nothing to this mook. And the College Board makes its money through standardized testing. Heck, that’s the whole reason for its existence. Now, we’re onto what’s up. Tierney is a test-basher. He hates standardized testing, not because it is a failure, but because it does its job. Along the way, it shows that certain races do better than others.
Thus, Tierney is the scam artist. Some of his criticisms are encoded, in order to fool the reader, while others are written in generic terms, about matters which are not generic.
Equivalent to college-level classes? It is impossible to generalize about this, and yet Tierney does.
I took five undergraduate history classes, split between Sullivan County Community College, including a Senior Seminar on American Women’s History. My chief of research has been taking AP classes throughout high school, and they are vastly more demanding than the college classes I took in history.
I spent six years teaching college in New Jersey and New York, and the idea that college classes are superior to high school AP classes is laughable.
Granted, I never taught at any OPUs (overpriced, private universities), so I can’t say what things are like in that world. But since Tierney never said anything about such schools, I’m free of needing to know about OPUs. Since Tierney made a universal judgment, he’s flat-out wrong.
My CoR has also been taking extremely demanding classes in math and the natural sciences. I took a two-semester sequence in “baby biology” at SCCC, including a lab each semester, dissecting a frog and a guinea pig (if memory serves), respectively. My kid is routinely talking about stuff that is so over my head, it’s embarrassing.
$: This is the one partially valid point Tierney makes. I say partially, because college students may be able to get college credit for their AP classes at public colleges. However, OPUs have stopped giving such credit, and my understanding is that, possibly excepting UC Berkeley, OPUs are not admitting kids with Taxpayer U. bachelors degrees to their grad programs.
But that doesn’t mean that taking AP classes are a waste. One lefty mom whose child recently graduated from an OPU says of AP classes, “They don’t get you credit, they get you in.”
Minority students: The supposed lack of minority students is not a bug, but a feature! If black and Hispanic students were accepted to AP classes at the same rate as whites and East Asians, it would mean that they had been destroyed. Have you ever seen a serious academic class with black, white, and Asian students? It’s a nightmare. When my son was in the sixth grade, I sat in one day, as his math teacher asked the kids to divide five by seven. Even with dry erase boards, none of the five black kids could solve the problem, not as a fraction, nor as a percentage.
Later, things got worse, as the Education Department forced “special ed” kids (read: black psychopaths) on his “selective” school. Only through getting into AP classes, did my son escape either having his education destroyed, or us going broke, having to pay for private school.
John Tierney clearly does not care about the education of white or East Asian kids.
“Opportunity costs” for non-AP students: The AP students are gifted; the others aren’t. Under JFK, America opened its pocketbook and its heart to gifted students. The result, among other things, was putting men on the moon. For generations since then, the government has devoted virtually no resources to gifted students. Conversely, for the past 50 years, educrats have had a blank check policy, regarding illiterate, black and Hispanic thugs who know nothing, and want to learn nothing, while robbing gifted students, who are overwhelmingly white and Asian. And today, we have a NASA that exists as an affirmative action dole, and PR operation for Islam.
If John Tierney treated his own children the way he is calling for all children to be treated, he would be guilty of being an unfit parent.
“To me, the most serious count against Advanced Placement courses is that the AP curriculum leads to rigid stultification… that squelches creativity and free inquiry.”
For many years, test-bashers have used certain code phrases, above all “teaching to the test,” in their jeremiads. (As opposed to teaching away from the test?) Tierney is trying not to give away the game. However, the claim that high-level classes are too rigid, is also part of the sophistry.
“The AP classroom is where intellectual curiosity goes to die.”
Test-bashers would have you believe that they are more supportive of creativity and questioning. Hah! When they have discussions, it’s to rigidly impose racial socialist orthodoxy.
AP Classes Are a Scam
The College Board earns over half of all its revenues from the courses—and, in an uncertain environment, students keep being suckered.
By John Tierney
October 13, 2012
Fraudulent schemes come in all shapes and sizes. To work, they typically wear a patina of respectability. That's the case with Advanced Placement courses, one of the great frauds currently perpetrated on American high-school students.
That's a pretty strong claim, right? You bet. But why not be straightforward when discussing a scam the scale and audacity of which would raise Bernie Madoff's eyebrows?
The miscellany of AP courses offered in U.S. high schools under the imprimatur of the College Board probably started with good intentions.
The idea, going back to the 1950s, was to offer college-level courses and exams to high-school students. The courses allegedly provide students the kind of rigorous academic experience they will encounter in college as well as an opportunity to earn college credit for the work.
Sounds pretty good. And every year, millions of high-school students enroll in the courses that are offered in 39 different subjects. They do so at an annual growth rate almost ten times the yearly percentage increase in the number of high school graduates. If there weren't something good about AP, would participation in the AP offerings be so high?
Interestingly, the evidence providing the clearest positive argument for AP participation is that high performance in AP courses correlates with better college grades and higher graduation rates, especially in science courses. But that's faint praise. It's the same as saying that students who do best in high school will do better in college and are more likely to graduate.
My beef with AP courses isn't novel. The program has a bountiful supply of critics, many of them in the popular press (see here and here), and many increasingly coming from academia as well (see here). The criticisms comport, in every particular, with my own experience of having taught an AP American Government and Politics course for ten years.
• AP courses are not, in fact, remotely equivalent to the college-level courses they are said to approximate. Before teaching in a high school, I taught for almost 25 years at the college level, and almost every one of those years my responsibilities included some equivalent of an introductory American government course. The high-school AP course didn't begin to hold a candle to any of my college courses. My colleagues said the same was true in their subjects.
• The traditional monetary argument for AP courses -- that they can enable an ambitious and hardworking student to avoid a semester or even a year of college tuition through the early accumulation of credits -- often no longer holds. Increasingly, students don't receive college credit for high scores on AP courses; they simply are allowed to opt out of the introductory sequence in a major. And more and more students say that's a bad idea, and that they're better off taking their department's courses.
• The scourge of AP courses has spread into more and more high schools across the country, and the number of students taking these courses is growing by leaps and bounds. Studies show that increasing numbers of the students who take them are marginal at best, resulting in growing failure rates on the exams. The school where I taught essentially had an open-admissions policy for almost all its AP courses. I would say that two thirds of the students taking my class each year did not belong there. And they dragged down the course for the students who did.
• Despite the rapidly growing enrollments in AP courses, large percentages of minority students are essentially left out of the AP game. And so, in this as in so many other ways, they are at a competitive disadvantage when it comes to college admissions.
• The AP program imposes "substantial opportunity costs" on non-AP students in the form of what a school gives up in order to offer AP courses, which often enjoy smaller class sizes and some of the better teachers. Schools have to increase the sizes of their non-AP classes, shift strong teachers away from non-AP classes, and do away with non-AP course offerings, such as "honors" courses. These opportunity costs are real in every school, but they're of special concern in low-income school districts.
• To me, the most serious count against Advanced Placement courses is that the AP curriculum leads to rigid stultification -- a kind of mindless genuflection to a prescribed plan of study that squelches creativity and free inquiry. The courses cover too much material and do so too quickly and superficially. In short, AP courses are a forced march through a preordained subject, leaving no time for a high-school teacher to take her or his students down some path of mutual interest. The AP classroom is where intellectual curiosity goes to die.
In short, somewhere along the way over the past half-century, the AP idea got corrupted.
Many critics lay the blame on the College Board itself, a huge "non-profit" organization that operates like a big business. The College Board earns over half of all its revenues from its Advanced Placement program -- more than all its other revenue streams (SATs, SAT subject tests, PSATs) combined. The College Board's profits for 2009, the most recent year for which records were available, were 8.6 percent of revenue, which would be respectable even for a for-profit corporation. "When a non-profit company is earning those profits, something is wrong," says Americans for Educational Testing Reform [test-bashers]. (The AETR's "report card" on the College Board awards a grade of D and cites [asserts] numerous "areas of misconduct" by the College Board.)
It's clear [no, it isn't] the College Board has the mentality of a voracious corporation, charging $89 a shot for an exam to millions of students who have no business taking it.
The college admissions process today is a total crapshoot. At least for the most competitive colleges, nobody in the applicant pool has any certainty anymore as to what will secure admission. In the face of that uncertainty, one rational form of behavior is to take the shotgun approach, blasting away at the admissions committee with every weapon in the student's armory: multiple AP courses, ridiculous amounts of extracurricular activity, and do-gooder volunteer work rivaling Mother Teresa's.
Lots of guidance counselors will advise families and students that a rational alternative is to opt out of that race. Concentrate on one or two things. Excel at them. I agree.
But it shouldn't be the customer's responsibility to stop a scam. The customer buys into it because the con artist is so skillful and the world is so uncertain. The only way to stop the College Boards of the world is to expose them. Tell people to be wary.
So, students and parents: beware.