Last night I was talking about those NAEP test results with a friend who is adept at math. He pointed out that those astonishingly bad “advanced” results didn’t make sense even in terms of probability — just by pure bell curve distribution you shouldn’t end up with just 1% of 8th graders, say, scoring in the advanced range. That is not just bad, it is beyond statistical logic bad. But add that together with the fact that more and more schools are filled with AP classes — the last two years have been the most competitive college admission years ever, such that kids with grade point averages over 4 are still winding up at their safety schools — which of course means that they have been on a steady diet of supposedly college level US History classes since 10th grade. How could it be that those students still do so poorly on the NAEP Civics test?
Dr. Jason O’Brien prepares future high school social studies teachers in the education school at the University of Alabama — we presented at NCSS together last year and will again this year. I asked him about the gap between the AP flood and the students’ ignorance. Here is what he said: “To answer your question about AP courses….Have you seen the actual implementation of an AP history course in high school? I have…
Teacher: “Okay, today we have to get through chapters 23-26, there’s too much for us to do here, so I’ll give you questions that we’ve encountered on previous AP exams and you can read the remaining content at home.” I’ve see that in two different classrooms in TWO DIFFERENT states…not sure how to solve it, but I know that it’s a common problem…Block scheduling was supposed to ameliorate some of it, but it doesn’t seem to be.”
Folks — tell me he is wrong. Are we really claiming that we are giving students college level thinking but in fact are just cramming one more version of test prep down their throats? That is criminal. It is false advertising. It is a total disservice to young people. College is about thinking and questioning. An AP class should be an introduction to that open-ended, investigation-oriented approach to the past — not yet another funnel of facts and dates.
What have you seen in AP classes? Or do we need to let IB take over all our schools — at least in IB schools they need to compare, contrast, write essays, open their minds.