Sunday, February 17, 2013

Article Link: A Warning to College Profs From a High School Teacher

Article: A Warning to College Profs From a High School Teacher

Published in: Washington Post

On: 2/09/2013

The first generation of public schooled kids who have been taught afte NCLB are starting to enter college.

From this AP US Government and Politics high school teacher comes these criticisms, in the order they appear in the article.

1. "In many cases, students would arrive in our high school without having had meaningful social studies instruction, because even in states that tested social studies or science, the tests did not count for “adequate yearly progress” under No Child Left Behind."

2. "Further, most of the tests being used consist primarily or solely of multiple-choice items, which are cheaper to develop, administer, and score than are tests that include constructed responses such as essays."

3. Poor writing skills, he credits due to #2. "Even when a state has tests that include writing, the level of writing required for such tests often does not demand that higher-level thinking be demonstrated, nor does it require proper grammar, usage, syntax, and structure."

4. AP classes criticized: "I mentioned that at least half my students were in AP classes. The explosive growth of these classes, driven in part by high school rankings like the yearly Challenge Index created by Jay Mathews of The Washington Post, is also responsible for some of the problems you will encounter with students entering your institutions.The College Board did recognize that not everything being labeled as AP met the standards of a college-level course, so it required teachers to submit syllabi for approval to ensure a minimal degree of rigor, at least on paper. But many of the courses still focus on the AP exam, and that focus can be as detrimental to learning as the kinds of tests imposed under No Child Left Behind."

5. Poor grammar skills.

6. Writing rubrics are poor. "If, as a teacher, you want your students to do their best, you have to have them practice what is effectively bad writing— no introduction, no conclusion, just hit the points of the rubric and provide the necessary factual support." Be sure to read that sentence CAREFULLY.

7. Writing in AP classes does not support true analytical thinking. "Some critical thinking may be involved, at least, but the approach works against development of the kinds of writing that would be expected in a true college-level course in government and politics.My students did well on those questions because we practiced bad writing. My teaching was not evaluated on the basis of how well my students did, but I felt I had a responsibility to prepare them for the examination in a way that could result in their obtaining college credit."

8. Too many students to give extra writing assignments to try to boost their writing skills becuase there is no time to read it.

9. Teaching a mile wide and an inch deep, even in the AP classes! "Further, the AP course required that a huge amount of content be covered, meaning that too much effort is spent on learning information and perhaps insufficient time on wrestling with the material at a deeper level."

10. Students lacked context and content familiarity. ",,,too many students in AP courses were not getting depth in their learning and lacked both the content knowledge and the ability to use what content knowledge they had."

11. Ignorant students. "Students often do not get exposure to art or music or other nontested subjects." These have connections to history and politics and are relevant.


By the time I finished reading this I was thanking God that we still homeschool. I am trying my hardest to decently educate my kids and a key component is careful selection of their curriculum such as choosing writing composition curriculum that I think is solid, teaching my kids grammar, different ways of learning and lots of time discussing that leads to critical thinking skill development. We spend less time spent on memorizing facts and parroting back information and more time learning deeply and thinking. I am raising independent thinkers and if that's all they wind up being, our homeschool will have been a success.


Elisheva Hannah Levin said...

The AP teacher is exactly right regarding AP courses: a mile wide and an inch deep is exactly how they are taught. Having taught AP Chemistry from 1998 - 2000, I advised my own daughter in 2002 to take the Gifted and Enriched courses rather than AP, especially in science and History, since these were areas of interest. May universities (UNM included) do not allow AP credit for majors in subjects like Biology and Chemistry because a high school course like AP simple does not and cannot be the same as the actual college course it seeks to replace.
My daughter agreed after some initial eye-rolling, and has been grateful ever since that she took the enriched classes, and thus got an excellent high school education so that she was prepared for her college education.

So often, we hurry students thinking that this is advanced, when real advancement means depth for the subject matter appropriate to the student's level at the time. A truly good education does not admit shortcuts.

ChristineMM said...

Elisheva, thanks for your input. I decided last year that I want my kids to have a high quality high school education not cramming AP. I do not see the need to rush college learning in the high school years.

I am avoiding AP courses as much as possible for my kids.

However we may use community college in high school just to access some courses that are hard to produce at home such as lab science, and a live math teacher to learn from which can sometimes be better than video based learning on CDROM or DVD or via internet math sites.

Thanks again for sharing your experience.

Amy @ Hope Is the Word said...

I took AP English in high school (20 years ago now--yikes!) and feel like it was well worth my time. I know it was better than the alternative, which was simply general English. I scored 5s on the AP exams I took (American and British Lit) and thus started out in sophomore English classes in college. However, I also taught AP history in high school some 15 years ago now, and I had to teach it on the block schedule (96 minute classes, with a change of schedule at the end of the semester). I know this had an impact on the quality of the class. That, and the inexperience of the teacher. ;-)