At any level, there will likely be students who work harder than you do. This only matters because the top colleges pick those kids. A parent I know has most of her kids at Phillips Andover, with the goal being an Ivy League school. Does a high school think that competition will go away if they eliminate AP classes?
I like AP classes because it forces some sort of rigor on high schools, but I don't like the AP arms race. These are two separate issues. The arms race has to do with supply and demand at colleges. A senior I know is taking 5 AP classes even though she will be going to a college that is ranked only about 90th for liberal arts colleges. IB doesn't help. It's actually worse in terms of commitment. With AP, you can choose what you want to do.
Even if the demand goes down and the college SAT cutoffs are reduced, there will still be the same percent of students stressed out about getting into their first choice colleges. Is supply and demand the problem of K-12 education?
There are also the problems of curriculum and how well classes are taught. Students can be stressed by working very hard, but be quite happy when they get into the college they want. Students can also be stressed when they find out that all of their hard work didn't prepare them properly.
Of course, this doesn't say anything about the kids at the middle and lower end. I find it odd that when many see problems in high school, they think that the problem to fix is in high school. They translate everything into one problem to solve. Even in K-6, I see solutions based on remediation and not finding the source of the problem.
If the problem is overstressed students (not bad classes or curricula), then don't push them. Tell them not to take so many AP classes and do so many activities. Our son is not at Phillips Academy, but we don't ignore the game. It's my job to help him find the right balance. It's the school's job not to waste his time.
Tuesday, May 3, 2011
Steve H on the Race
Speaking of the Race to Nowhere, Steve H writes: