Monday, May 21, 2012

What's the Big Hurry?

     This past Saturday The Dallas Morning News had an excellent Local Voices column by Emily Worland, a teacher at Marcus High School in Flower Mound: "The gentle, ‘no tears’ formula for AP exams." Her basic thesis is that "The AP program as it stands creates a misperception of college expectations and sets students up for handouts that simply won’t exist." Some of the reasons are programmatic, but many are developmental. (Read the column here.)
     I recall the last time I taught an AP course. It was AP Composition. Ironically, I felt that I didn't help the students improve as writers nearly as much as I could have in the time allotted. Why? Because so often I had to take extensive time to show them how to structure formulaic responses to certain types of questions.
     Beyond challenges such as this one, not many high school students can function at the level expected in most college courses. Yet a distrubing trend has arisen. AP courses used to be the domain of exceptional seniors. A while ago more juniors began taking them. Now sophomores. Middle schools have pre-AP tracks. A few years ago a prospective family with a rising kindergartener asked me about AP courses in upper school, with a focus on a particular subject.
     I'm reminded of select sports, in which kids are asked to choose and specialize at younger and younger ages. Yes, many love the sport. But many end up injured or burnt out.
     I have to ask: What's the big hurry?

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