Honors English and ponderings about the importance of AP tests

At the beginning of the year, DC1 was signed up for all the hardest classes zie could be signed up for as a Freshman.  AP World History instead of Human Geography.  Algebra II pre-AP honors.  Biology pre-AP honors.  JV Orchestra.  Honors Computer Programming… And Pre-AP honors English.

This English class quickly had a detrimental effect on our entire family.  After four years of zero homework (other than the Year of Crafts) and taking half a year to read a simple YA novel in middle-school English, zie was suddenly getting nightly essays, heavy reading assignments, and lots of things zie had never been trained how to do.  Instructions were vague and confusing.  Grades were low and seemed capricious.  English was taking all of DC1’s time and all of our time too trying to figure out what the teacher wanted.  (This is in heavy contrast to AP History in which the teacher is scaffolding essays and giving clear instructions about what she is looking for in every assignment– there’s a lot of work but it doesn’t seem so random.)  One of my work friends had a kid in AP English I with the same teacher the previous year and said it never got any better in terms of time, though hir kid did eventually figure out how to earn As in the class.  She spent all last year complaining about the class and is not really sure what was gotten out of it (other than the ability to do assignments quickly at the last minute and to use tiny words and very simple sentences so as not to get points taken off for spelling/grammar/usage).  So it’s not DC1!

The final straw was an essay on why DC1 wanted to take English Pre-AP.   What zie came up with was that zie wanted to get into a good college and taking an AP English class and getting a high grade on the AP English tests would help.  And… as an educator, I kind of think that’s a piss-poor reason to be spending all this time in such a terrible class.  In fact, if it lowers DC1’s grades in other classes more related to hir interests, or keeps hir from inventing something or exploring extra-curriculars or even just getting enough sleep, then it might hinder DC1 from getting into a good college.

So, we found out that there was a second level of English class that is still honors English, so still on the 5 point scale.  Sadly, it had had fewer assignments and they had all been easy 100s (ex. sign up for turnitin.com), but DC1’s low grades transferred over instead of allowing hir to do those assignments for credit, AND the weighting was different so DC1’s grades dropped even lower. But it’s been slowly moving up, though not to an A.  This English class also seems to be equally capricious on subjective things and there have been several quiz questions in which DC1 picked the correct multiple choice or T/F question but the teacher said it was incorrect even when DC1 backed it up hir answer with textual evidence.  So DC1 is still getting a B, though the B is now higher than it was in the previous class (and hir grade is literally 10 percentage points higher than the class average, which is a C).  I have resigned myself to the more and more likely possibility of not having to pay for MIT or Harvey Mudd.  DH’s alma mater and my sister’s alma mater both have very good computer science/engineering programs and if DC1 keeps up As in all hir other classes, never getting an A in English might still be ok.

Although the grading is still capricious, the instruction is much better.  They’re taught things before they’re asked to do them in an assignment.  They spend a week on things that the other class would do in a day before moving on to something completely different, so there’s time to review and reflect and apply feedback.  There’s also more choice in assignments and MUCH more literature written by people who aren’t dead white dudes, and the literature for the non-pre-AP class has been updated since 1970 (I’m looking at you A Separate Peace).  They’re still cramming what seems like all of Midwestern 7th and 8th grade English into a single semester along with Freshman English (minus the two Shakespeare plays– they only do Romeo and Juliet this year, which we also did as Freshmen), but it’s not at quite such an insane pace.

My friend says English Pre-AP II is almost but not quite as bad as I, so we’re not sure if we’re going to have DC1 switch back in the future.  Non-Pre-AP English II sounds pretty good– they do a big section on modern World Literature that I think could broaden DC1’s horizons a lot.  It is true that getting 3s or higher on the English AP exams would allow DC1 to waive English requirements if zie went to a state school, but they’re pretty useless most of the places zie is looking at applying.  Or if they are useful, zie would need 5s for them to help at all.  I did take one of the AP English exams despite not having AP English (it was an accident– I’d meant to cancel the exam for a refund but somehow didn’t when I cancelled the other AP tests that the college I was going to didn’t accept), and somehow managed to get a 4 even though I guessed most of the multiple choice answers since they were full of terminology I had never heard before in my life.  (This is what I was supposed to be learning all those years, I thought.)

In the mean time, we will keep trusting the AP history classes to teach DC1 how to write.  We’ve heard amazing things about AP US History which zie will be taking next year.  I have to say, I learned a lot more about how to write clear and concise essays in my history classes than I ever did in an English class.  Probably because I never had a deconstructionist history teacher.

Did you take AP exams?  Do you think they’re useful?

46 Responses to “Honors English and ponderings about the importance of AP tests”

  1. Steph Says:

    I was never aiming for a place like MIT, so I can’t speak to that level of competitiveness, but I had zero regrets about dropping back to “on-level” history and english near the end of high school. I got to enjoy the classes and get what I could out of them, instead of dealing with the high stress of the classes/exams. With all of the other advanced classes DC1 is taking, I personally don’t see why zie needs to slog through an AP English track, especially if there’s an honors option.

    I took 4 total APs, AP Euro History as a sophomore and Calc BC, Physics B, and Latin as a senior. I fought my way to a B and a 3 in Euro, and then happily dropped back to “on-level” history the next year (no honors option). I took honors english until senior year, when I dropped back to on-level (only on-level or AP options, again). Like you’re finding with DC1, not all of my instructors were great at *teaching* the necessary skills and it was often a sink-or-swim kind of situation. I think AP exams have their place – it was nice to have a semester of elective credits out of the way once the recession started and we were talking about having me graduate early to save money. But I appreciated that my school limited their availability and how many you could take in a year, so that we weren’t too overwhelmed.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Back when I was in high school people only took AP exams senior year and *maybe* junior year, and you could cancel if you found out your college didn’t accept them. Now it seems like it’s usual to take one Freshman year and a handful sophomore and you have to sign up in NOVEMBER. AP is doing a good job making money, I guess. On the other hand, the cost per exam has gone down, so maybe that’s a benefit.

      • Steph Says:

        Yeah I think my school was unique in our area for how many APs were offered – some of my classmates did take 2-3 APs in junior year at my school, but public schools and some private schools often had students taking all APs in junior/senior year. We were required to take the exam if we took the AP class, which sucked – and yeah, you had to pay the school for registration in the fall.

  2. Leigh Says:

    I took two IB exams in the end: Math and Computer Science. My undergrad university didn’t give any credit for IB/AP, so more wouldn’t have helped me much. My high school was really not very good unless you were in the honors/IB classes though, so that was annoying. Not the teachers – the school was small, so the teachers were the same – but my grade 12 English class, I had 90%, a friend had 80% and the next grades were in the 60s and we had a 50% attendance rate. I think the IB classes were mostly useful in that their curriculum was stronger than the local curriculum and provided smarter students as classmates.

    My early high school years were actually Honors Humanities instead of separate English and Social Studies/History, which was really fun! We would learn about historical events, read novels about them, and write essays. I also had awesome teachers both years!

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      That does sound like a fun humanities class! I cobbled something like that together by accident in college one semester– I had three classes (English, History, Economics) that were all about England with an emphasis on long-19th century. (No wonder I like long-regency novels!) (My fourth class that semester was combinatorics, I think.) I ended up writing papers like “Emma in the middle of an agricultural evolution.”

      • Leigh Says:

        Oh that sounds like a super fun semester! I definitely remember loving my probability course even though it was also brutal. And yeah, I also really love historical fiction!

  3. CG Says:

    Wow, taking AP exams as a freshman seems nuts. I took a bunch of AP exams–history, biology, English, French, I think maybe government or something. I think I took them all my senior year. I did well enough on them to get a bunch of generic college credit and to place out of intro French. That meant that after one semester of college I was considered a sophomore and got higher priority for course registration. Since I took a heavy load every year, it also meant that I essentially graduated from college in three years (I entered a master’s program during my “senior” year so graduated with a bachelor’s and master’s in five years). My parents paid for my undergrad and the school paid for my master’s degree so taking those AP classes led to my parents saving quite a bit of money. If I recall correctly, they had saved up enough for three years of college, so that really made a difference.

    Also, still reading A Separate Peace? Really? That one deserves to drop out of the canon for sure.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      It seems nuts to me too! But apparently it’s normal for the top college prep kids, of whom there are many.

      100% agreed on A Separate Peace. WTHeck AP English? Get with the times. Whiny privileged white men who hurt people are why the country’s in trouble right now– they’re really not sympathetic.

  4. Mary Says:

    Long, long ago, I took a fair number of AP exams (English, US History, European History, French, Calculus and maybe a couple more)). I could have, theoretically, taken sophomore standing in my first year of college, which, I suppose, would have saved my parents a year of college tuition. But neither my parents nor I really cared about that, so I didn’t.

    But pretty much everyone at my high school (a city-wide exam school) took AP classes and exams, so it wasn’t really for college prep or credit — I was just doing what all my friends were doing.

  5. Alice Says:

    My experience is from the early 90’s, so it may be too old to be relevant. I took AP History and AP English and scored highly on both tests. In terms of clear A-to-B results, they meant that I didn’t have to take 2 classes in college and I went into a different Freshman Comp class than I would’ve been in without the English test. The AP classes may have been a factor in what colleges accepted me, but it’s hard to say. I first took the SAT at 12 to become eligible for a big-name college’s academic camp that I then went on to attend for 4 years. Having that camp on my applications probably made a bigger difference.

    In terms of usefulness…I don’t know if I’d say the classes were something I’d say are “useful,” but I think that they were a space to connect to foundational knowledge and further develop a sense of ethics. They were also a forum in which to practice analysis, writing, and organizing myself to Get Things Done. I don’t think I would have done as well in life if I hadn’t been practicing those things back then, but I also think I could have practiced them in non-AP classes. And, realistically, did so: I was a hard-fought high-B student in my non-honors, non-AP math and science classes.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      DC1 qualified for the Southern version of that camp, but hasn’t gone. (I qualified for the midwestern version, but my parents couldn’t afford it so I did daycamp at the local university instead.)

  6. rose Says:

    Over the past 40 years AP classes intents seem to have changed and their availability at public schools varies widely by community. Is a student in a lower income community with fewer available AP classes seriously disadvantaged for acceptance at what I will call ‘big name elite schools’? Is it better to have an A in a regular class or a B in an AP class or is it all based on passed on passing the AP test? IS it just pass or fail on AP test or is there a variable score on well or poorly you perform? I am thinking the grading practices of teachers rather than the intellectual capacity and learning of the student ought not to determine eligibility for acceptance to ‘big name elite schools’. Not because a state school may not equal to one of the ‘big names elite private school’ for learning and professional success but because today the school ‘name’ seems to be so important … so a C grade point at Stanford is more highly valued than being the top graduate at many state universities when it comes to new grad employment opportunities. Is this accurate? Is this a positive thing?
    I am appalled the classroom grading policies, not learning/ability/mastery of subject, could keep your child from being accepted at Harvey Mudd when they are otherwise qualified.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Elite schools will say that they want to see evidence that a person has taken advantage of all opportunities available. So if there’s no AP classes, then they’re not expected to have them. Ivies are still pretty biased, but flagship state schools less so. We don’t know if it’s better to have an A in a regular class or a B in an AP class if the AP class is offered. AP tests are scored 1-5, with 3 the minimum “passing” score. Some schools only accept 4 or 5 for credit and some don’t accept them at all. Some schools accept some APs but not others (generally the harder ones are more likely to be accepted in those schools).
      Large universities often have an idea of the grade inflation at different high schools.
      Nobody looks at your undergraduate GPA after you get your first job or get accepted to graduate school.
      My kid might not be qualified otherwise, and Harvey Mudd is a small highly selective school! They can’t accept everybody. If DC1 were into competitions or patenting etc. zie wouldn’t have to get everything else perfect.

    • Cloud Says:

      From what my friends whose kids have recently gone through college admissions tell me, I think the metric many admissions officers slants towards is something like “Did this kid take advantage of the opportunities available in their school?”

      From what I’ve seen with their kids, a low English grade wouldn’t necessarily sink the application even at a place like Harvey Mudd, particularly if balanced by some other compelling thing (e.g., a strength in the arts, or a long involvement in a robotics club).

      But there’s an element of luck in all of it, too – do the strengths on your application resonate with someone on the admissions committee? Do you happen to have something they’d like in their class composition?

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        It would help if DC1 could remember to actually go to robotics club…

        But basically right now DC1 doesn’t have anything extraordinary nor any desires to do these kinds of things (competition, sports) so needs i’s dotted and ts crossed to even be marginal for top schools. That may change in the next 3.5 years.

      • Cloud Says:

        One of my friend’s kids took a gap year and went to a language immersion program in Japan and that let him get into a better school for him. They ended up paying a college admissions coach just because their son would listen to the coach but not to them. This particular suggestion from the coach turned out to be a great one for their kid, partly for the actual program and partly for the fact that the extra year gave the kid time to mature a bit and figure out what he really wanted in a college, which made his admissions essay more compelling.

        It has been really interesting watching how my friends’ kids navigate the process. An advantage of having kids late that I certainly never considered!

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        If DC1 keeps up as zie has been going, I think zie will still be competitive for “regional ivies”, especially since we’ll be paying full tuition and zie will be subsidizing other students (like DH or my sister) and zie would be a legacy for one of them. Since DC1 is so young, a gap year isn’t out of the question, though what that would look like I don’t know. If it means a year as a first-year student where I work and then transferring, I’m not sure it’s worth it.

        The weird thing is that DC1 really does seem to know what zie wants career-wise. Zie is really into computer programming. It is possible that zie will do some kind of research internship as a junior that will make these freshmen year grades moot, but who knows. Or maybe once zie is 13 and can start a youtube channel, hir planned channel for magic tricks will take off. Though zie did not spend any summer free-time making videos to post later as we suggested. Zie isn’t old enough to do formal volunteering, but zie also is really not interested in doing any.

        We could do things like have hir coauthor a paper, but zie just doesn’t seem interested. Who knows what the future will bring. Maybe a unicycle this Christmas.

        So, I don’t know. Colleges like focus, and DC1 is very focused– zie only cares about: sushi, magic tricks, and computer programming. (Currently also reading comic books and posting on gaming forums.) Zie also already had high SAT scores age 10. But colleges also like people who have high grades and volunteer work and proof of their interests in the form of winning competitions or publications or patents or influencer status etc., and those paths are currently not ones zie is interested in pursuing. So, pragmatically…

      • First Gen American Says:

        My older son would to do robotics and enjoys it but doesn’t like the boys in the HS team. I am not sure how much to push him to do it. He seems to want to join the D+D team because he likes the kids better.

        I coach the First robotics grammar school team for my younger son and insisted girls must be on it. So much drama in robotics right now. Some Parents are upset because their kids aren’t on the team but I don’t have enough coaches to take more than one teams worth and the school isn’t helping with staff. We just kept asking kids til we had enough for a team and then started one. But since we won best rookie team last year, everyone wants in now but doesn’t want to do any work to staff it. I am working on a solution to start a second team, but oh it’s a lot of drama for me trying to do a good thing. There was even a rumor flying around that it was an all boys team and I wasn’t letting girls on it. Half my team was girls last year. I guess I am in a venty mood this morning. Sorry grumpies.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        We just told DC1 to pick an activity. We don’t care which one. One of the current problems is that DC1 gets to the club room after school and then nobody is there and instead of waiting for people to show up, zie just goes home on the bus. That’s compounded with missing the first few meetings from not paying attention that the club had started and forgetting to go several meetings in a row early on and thus not being on mailing lists or knowing about discord and missing additional meetings because of it. We asked if zie really wanted to be on this team and zie said yes, but I think zie has only actually been 2 or 3 times and the team itself probably does not consider hir to be a member at this point.

  7. Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life Says:

    That sounds rather terrible. In part because I remember mostly really enjoying my Honors/AP English teachers and classes and I wish for the same for all kids. I’m still in touch with my freshman year teacher. When it was exam year, our AP English teacher was so solidly good at her job that almost everyone easily scored a 5 on their AP exam, even me. I was a great reader, bad writer, arguably worse exam taker. She taught us to write and take exams and parse questions without ever feeling like she was teaching to a test, she exposed us to a wide range of literature. Still primarily the old white man variety but a wide range within that set.

    We learned different ways of writing in English and history, both valuable.

    I can’t remember if it was 7 or 9 exams I took in total across all four years but I was surprised to find that all of them were accepted as credit in college. I did “only” go to a state school but that went a long way to getting me out of that state school in 4 years where most people took 5.

    I did drop out of Honors Math though. I simply struggled far too much to grasp the Honors math and I couldn’t figure out how to find a way to absorb it. I still have flashes back to that feeling stupid feeling and hate it.

    I really hope we have a better option for JB when the time comes. It doesn’t sound like either of the local high schools are really strong academically or financially, both are compromises in different ways.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      That sounds like a great English class! Though I suspect that you’re undeservedly harsh on yourself academically.

      State schools in California are pretty amazing.

      Sounds like your honors math teacher wasn’t anywhere near as good as your honors English teacher.

      • Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life Says:

        Maybe harsh but maybe correct? This is how I take tests: start at the top and answer everything I can easily. Get bored. Drop to the bottom of the test and start answering from the bottom. Get bored / befuddled working backwards, stop, go back to the middle and cherry pick the questions that I can answer until I’m done with all the ones I can do. Then I just take a stab in the dark at the ones I don’t know. I don’t know how other people take tests though.

        Honors math teacher seemed great for classmates but maybe they had more / different help than I had?

  8. FF Says:

    Way back at the dawn of time (i.e., the early 1980s), I took AP European History in 10th grade, AP American History in 11th-12th grades (2 courses of American History separated by one semester each of Constitution and Economics for a 4-semester sequence), and AP English Literature and Biology in 12th grade. I got 5s on all of these. I also took Calculus, but the course didn’t really prepare us for it the test–we only got through a fraction of the material. And I dropped AP Physics. I was able to place out of Intro Bio and a freshman seminar in college, although I had to choose an English class from a few specific sophomore-level writing-focused course. The other courses/tests just gave me elective credits. I found the AP courses pretty non-stressful–I think I just reread the textbook the week before the AP test–no mountains of homework or cryptic assignments throughout the year. But my niece’s experience a few years ago with AP World History sounds much more like DC1s AP experience, with a large workload and grade stress.

    Also, just echoing that I don’t think a single so-so grade in the first year of high school will keep DC1 from getting into a good school, as long as it’s not a pattern, it will be likely be chalked up to “adjusting.” I also suspect that they will notice that DC1 is younger than most applicants. And over time, DC1 may also develop more/deeper interests that can be discussed on the application. But all the hype about top schools nowadays makes me really glad to be long past it myself.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      No, it’s a combination of DC1’s lack of interest in other things that would make hir stick out, combined with the rest. But there’s 3.5 years left for hir to get inspired.

      And, to be fair, CS/EE at regional ivies tends to be a lot less stressful than at MIT/HMC/Caltech. So there’s those benefits too. In the end DC1 will have to make these decisions, though possibly with a little more information than DH and I got. (Though our choices turned out well. And I really like my sister’s metric of only applying to places with healthy % women in engineering, high retention rates for women engineers, and strong representation of SWE on campus. Women and minorities seem to be a canary for a program’s health overall.)

      This summer DC1 will still be too young to do anything that would build hir college application (and zie did all the local STEM camps last summer and the summer before), so we’ve decided it’s the Summer of Fun Summer Camps. And next year zie can worry about volunteering/working/research/college classes etc.

      • xykademiqz Says:

        Having gone through this recently with Eldest, it seems that the well-rounded applicant is not what selective places look for. Rather, they look for an applicant who is excellent, as in national or even international-level excellent at something, and the rest of the record should be fine, but certainly needn’t be all As.

        Eldest always had all As and state-level honors in music. He only applied to my school (what you call a public ivy) and the neighboring state’s equivalent, got into both, and is now a sophomore here. It’s nice to have him in town and he’s doing really well, excellent grades, good friends. I highly recommend a big public school for kids who are fairly well socially adjusted because the social aspects, the number of things going on on campus, the different communities and colleges, this all provides a level of vibrancy that helps dissipate a lot of the stress.

        With Middle Boy now in 7th grade and unmotivated by grades (he’s super bright, but also really tall/cool/popular — it’s so strange to be raising a jock — and extremely stubborn), it will be tough. He might not even have the grades to get into my school (which being a state flagship has a pretty high minimum admission GPA). I can’t talk to any of my colleagues about this, because all their kids are very studious and the parents are very invested in their college plans; the colleagues look at me with a mix of pity and incredulity.

        Anyway, back to Eldest. He did have all As and took several AP courses (two AP calculus courses, AP World History, AP Bio, AP Music Theory, and something else I can’t remember). He was always a good writer but hated his English Honors class one year and wouldn’t hear of going that route again. He was much happier in regular English as it was more modern, they had varied writing assignments and discussions about the books, overall the class was better run. He was going to not continue French b/c he hated the teacher he was gonna have but then the teacher left so he took it next year. He also didn’t take AP Chemistry after Chem honors because of the teacher. He loved LOVED AP World History; it was his favorite class. He was also heavily involved with band and choir (and jazz band as extra).

        I see similar things with MIddle Boy now. If the teacher sucks, it the course is boring or the teacher too strict, he doesn’t do the work. With a more relaxed, flexible teacher, he does great. He’s thriving in math this year (he’s accelerated), Spanish, English (!) after major battles last year with a teacher who thought he was a bum, music. It’s disheartening to see how he gets dismissed by some old-school/super strict teachers as a bad kid because he’s not obsequious. I can only imagine how bright kids from rough neighborhoods get sidelined and ignored because some consider obedience a prerequisite for acceptance/excellence and these kids aren’t docile.

        DH and I pretty much let kids do what they like, which I have to say I am ashamed to admit here or to my IRL colleagues, because we seem like (probably because we are) lazy parents who let their kids be underachievers. But silver lining is that Eldest has been far less stressed out during high school than many of his peers and he himself said that was because he could do what he wanted.

        Disclaimer: I often seem to inadvertently offend when I comment here. I promise I am not trying to throw shade at anyone’s parenting style, just share my experiences/impressions and where I see them falling w/ respect to kids’ friends and colleagues+their kids.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        DC1 isn’t on hir way to being nationally excellent at anything and we’re not going to push that just for college applications. So zie needs to be the marginal applicant. DH got a marching band scholarship but DC1 doesn’t have that either. And some schools do have a minimum GPA cutoff. There’s a lot of future left for more Non-As in harder classes. Plus just being in orchestra drops hir GPA because even varsity frosh and sophomores only get 4 points for the class instead of 5.

        My parents were much more hands off with grades but I also never forgot to turn things in. We started out hands off but then in 6th grade got surprised with interim progress reports and then got told we could check grades online and from that we discovered we could set alerts, so I have an alert set to email us whenever hir course grade drops below 90 or an assignment below 70.

  9. yetanotherpfblog Says:

    Can DC1 jump back onto AP track if they don’t do the honors courses freshman and sophomore year? Or would it be possible for DC1 to take non-AP course but sit for the exam? This assumes they can self-study and the main obstacle is teacher capriciousness. Though if you have a regional school with a well-known, good program they can get into (like UMich, GATech, Univ of Maryland, etc), I doubt it’ll make any difference to their career prospects at all.

    I did full IB program like a decade ago, and from what I remember you don’t really get scored until senior year, so my final scores didn’t really matter. The grading on those exams were so arbitrary. One of my friends fabricated a Russian famine in his essay for the history exam and got a perfect score. As I understand it, they also apply a uniform curve to normalize portfolio scores from your instructor, which brought down our whole class’s scores (over-inflated) so nobody got highest marks in any of the basic science classes. #notbitter

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Not sure if they can jump on junior or senior year. Those will be actual AP classes. They can take AP exams without taking the class—that’s something I did since our high school didn’t have AP classes.

      I’m not a fan of the big state schools in the south in general. They teach too much black and white and not enough ambiguity. Our grad students who went to regional midwestern schools tend to be better prepared first semester for higher level thinking than our Southern R1 grads. They’re not any smarter, they’re just used to exams that don’t parrot back what the professor said and questions that don’t have a for sure right answer. So I don’t really want my kids to go to the state flagship.

  10. rose Says:

    Thank you for the time you took to explain things to me. The whole university admissions thing has become so complex and exclusionary… Hard to keep up. Reminds me of saying from a very long time ago “A mind is a terrible thing to waste” and we as a country are wasting so many by not expanding opportunities for all the talented students in this country.
    Sometimes you have asked for future questions so: Maybe I am missing something but as U of California has opened more campuses since 1960 so it can be done; why have Harvard, Stanford, Yale, Princeton, MIT, etc, with massive fortunes in endowments and fees, not done any real major expansions? Why have we chosen to not fund more medical schools to produce the doctors we need in an expanding population? Why do we support the limiting of graduate degrees?
    What would be the impact of more real opportunity with less ‘I have to prevent you from going to get in myself’ on equality for all Americans? I hear people say with blue collar work as well that if X population competes on equal terms with my Y child, my Y child may not be able to work, have family, home, food, etc. Would prejudice be reduced and GDP increase? The very old ‘what if education had enough money and the military had to have bake sales to fund their work instead of PTA’s doing so’. Might we be better positioned to reduce climate change impacts and homelessness also?

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      This one I know the answer to: Why have we chosen to not fund more medical schools to produce the doctors we need in an expanding population?

      Because MDs are one of the few remaining guilds left and they like having monopoly power to keep their salaries higher. (Even so, there’s DOs filling in some of the demand.)

      • FF Says:

        I think there are also a limited number of medical residences, which are funded by Medicare and haven’t increased in ~20 years. There is no point in graduating a lot more MDs if they won’t be able to complete their training and work as doctors. Every year, there are thousands of MDs who fail to match into a residency.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        The AMA has a lot to do with that too.

  11. First Gen American Says:

    My kid had the option to do 2 math classes this year but we opted to skip that even though that’s one of his strong points. If he does okay this year I am sure we can double up again if we want. But there still is a maturity issue that we’re still dealing with. The other day, he came home with a Math test that was a C because he didn’t realize there was a backside to his test paper…or finishing online assignments and then forgetting to hit the submit button. It’s just the dumbest stuff to lose points on.

    We don’t do AP til after the honors versions of the classes are completed.

    As you said the workload is not often the issue. Last year my son actually tolerated all the writing assignments because there was a very detailed rubric on what content should be in the essays that he could check off with his assignments. And while I am not usually a fan of the follow a recipe teaching method, it helped him learn some good habits on how to create a clear and concise essay, that he can now take with him into High school and college. The hard part with those classes is the gray area…once he realized there is a method to good writing, it became a lot less stressful.

    We have had a lot of homework since middle school compared to the schools the next town over and I am glad we do. It took a whole year to adjust from the near no homework to daily homework in multiple subjects schedule. College has so much homework and it’d be a shame to have to learn time management skills then when so much money is on the line.

  12. Michael N Nitabach Says:

    Just wanted to say your kid is super fortunate that you care abt & engage with this stuff. If one had ever asked my parents what classes I wuz even taking they’d have had absolutely zero idea or interest.

  13. Lisa Says:

    I may have missed this in the comments above, but I’m wondering about IB vs AP programs? My oldest will start high school next year and have the choice between these. The IB sounds really intense, but also seems to come with lots of perks (I believe that a student who completes the IB program gets a full ride to our flagship state uni, it translates internationally, etc.).

    I did APs years ago and another thing I haven’t seen mentioned here yet is AP chemistry. This was by far the best “value” in terms of AP classes, in that it got me out of a full year of chemistry, whereas most other AP classes only get you out of one quarter/semester of the subject, if that. The ability to skip general chemistry was likely the main driver for me being able to graduate in 3 years with a BS (I was a chemistry major, obviously not so important if you’re in a field that doesn’t require gen chem). I also passed the AP English test, which I assume got me out of something but I don’t really remember what, and the AP Calculus test, but I elected to take calculus anyway, which was probably a good thing b/c it solidified those skills. I was glad that I hadn’t taken AP History because the history class I had to take in college was my favorite history class ever (I usually hated the subject).

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I don’t really know anything about IB– we don’t have that option here.

    • yetanotherpfblog Says:

      Speaking from experience, having done IB: The full diploma program requires a LOT of writing and has built-in well-roundedness requirements (around volunteering, physical activity, the arts, ethics/epistemology), all of which I found really useful for college prep. That said, there is such a high volume of work that’s just built in (e.g. research essay, aforementioned EC requirements, portfolio projects, etc) that around 60% of my class’s cohort ended up dropping the program between freshman year and graduation. Also, at least when I was applying (this was about 10 years ago), American universities seemed less interested in giving college credit for IB than for AP, so not as much opportunity to skip a year of college if that’s something your kid might be looking to do.

  14. Bardiac Says:

    I always wonder about AP courses if they really are college-equivalent. And, from students I’ve seen, I have my doubts. They may learn a lot of factoids, but if they’re not learning the critical thinking type skills that college courses should be teaching, the factoids aren’t that important.

    I understand the feeling that it’s better if people don’t have to pay for four years of college, but it seems that given the numbers of remedial students, we’ve culturally “dumbed down” some curricula in HS and put AP courses where the previous regular, college-prep type courses were.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I think there’s a regional difference in the alternative—the south is frighteningly not into critical thinking compared to the Midwest. AP is generally a step up here.

    • Debbie M Says:

      I hung around a lot of academic counselors at my last jobs at a flagship university, and I was surprised to hear that the general consensus was that good AP scores for prerequisite courses did not mean you were prepared for the following courses and so you should not apply for AP credit in your major, for example.


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