kitchen table math, the sequel: The New York Times is going to be surprised again

Sunday, December 15, 2013

The New York Times is going to be surprised again

The New York Times is surprised 12/11/2013

In the Times today:
In past years, the College Board, which administers the program and the exams, has been justifiably criticized for requiring too much rote learning of a broad range of facts, and too little time for in-depth study, lab work or creative ventures. But now the board is beginning a drastic revision of its courses and exams, which will focus on the most important core concepts of a subject and leave more room for students and teachers to become more creative.

Even Gifted Students Can’t Keep Up
In Math and Science, the Best Fend for Themselves
Ostensibly, the New York Times editorial board believes AP courses are flawed and approves of the current effort to gut revise them.

Close reading of this passage, however, compels me to point out that the choice of the word "drastic" as the modifier for "revision" signals a certain ….. foreboding …. on the part of the Times.

Conclusion: the collective basal ganglia of the Times editorial board is crying out to be heard.


Anonymous said...

The consensus of the AP Bio teachers was that the revision to AP Bio improved the course. Some were unhappy that the number of 5s on the AP Bio course dropped a lot last year, others were happy that the number of 1s also dropped. Overall, people seemed to feel that the new test was as good or better a test of biology as the old one.

The AP Chem teachers are not as happy with the revision they are facing this year—mainly because the inclusion and exclusion of concepts does not seem to have been as clearly communicated as it was for AP Bio.

AP Physics teachers are mostly not looking forward to splitting Physics B into Physics 1 and 2, though they could teach it more thoroughly that way. The problem is that few high schools provide time for 2 physics courses (and those that do generally want one of the courses at the Physics C level).

Anonymous said...

We have been wrestling with the physics changes and decided to switch our second year course over to physics C so that we could keep our first year honors course as a survey. We don't think it's fair to make a student commit to two years of physics to see a range of topics that will prepare them for physics in college. But overall, we are actually looking forward to the change to C -- lots of interesting topics and a good prep for future engineers. But who knows what the AP will do to that course in the future.


SteveH said...

What do colleges think of the changes? That's what matters. My son is taking AP Chem now and his teacher does NOT like the changes. Labs? they are trivial. When I was in high school, we had a real, and separate, lab room. That was before AP and nobody thought about getting college credit for the course.

"In past years, the College Board, which administers the program and the exams, has been justifiably criticized for requiring too much rote learning of a broad range of facts, and too little time for in-depth study, lab work or creative ventures."

"Justifiably?" I always depend on the NYT editorial board for cogent analysis. What is the problem exactly; that students struggle to do well in the courses or that the content does not match up with typical college courses?

"In a post-smokestack age, ..."

... we trot out all sorts of trite simplifications because we let our opinions drive reality.

"Even Gifted Students Can’t Keep Up"

Gosh. My son must be a genius. Over the years I've noticed a real expectation and rigor gap between people. Many with low expectations look to vague ideas of critical thinking, understanding, and creativity to claim the high ground of rigor and education. When my son told a math professor at Michigan that he would be taking the BC portion of calculus this fall as an independent study, he asked my son what he would be doing after the first few weeks. My son laughed.

The big problem I see in our school system is that the sequence of science courses is not well defined. This has to do with whether AP courses require prerequisites. Our state also mandates an Earth Science class for all ninth graders. That wastes a year on something that should be covered (if at all) in middle school. This leaves only three science slots unless you use your elective to double up. Senior year often opens up another slot, but, as in my son's case, his schedule limited his choices. Most students take Honors Biology as sophomores because our school requires that before AP Biology. (I'm not sure why.) This is relaxed for physics and chemistry. Students will take those courses (with no prerequisites) as juniors and seniors, depending on how they fit into their schedules. My son did just fine taking his science AP courses without prerequisites. I would not suggest that he use them to skip the college versions (some colleges only allow skipping calculus if you get a 5 on the BC test) because they won't match up.

I want to see proper rigor in AP science classes - rigor that matches up with the college view. What's happening here is a battle between a low rigor view of K-12 education and the higher rigor view of many colleges. K-12 educators feel like they own the curricula even for AP classes, which should be defined by colleges. I expect to see more colleges viewing AP as RP - Regular Placement. I think these changes are also happening because the College Board sees a big mismatch between what AP classes expect and what CCSS expects. Their solution? Dumb down AP and cater to K-12 educational thought. Redefinition.

concerned said...

This is what Trevor Packer, senior vice president of the College Board’s Advanced Placement Program, told superintendents about AP Calculus

"there are still difficulties in reconciling many AP courses with the Common Core. In particular, AP Calculus is in conflict with the Common Core and it lies outside the sequence of the Common Core because of the fear that it may unnecessarily rush students into advanced math classes for which they are not prepared.

The College Board suggests a solution to the problem. of AP Calculus “If you’re worried about AP Calculus and fidelity to the Common Core, we recommend AP Statistics and AP Computer Science,” he told conference attendees.

Moreover, the College Board may offer an AP Algebra course (although no plans are definite), which may supplant AP Calculus, particularly in schools rigidly adhering to the Common Core standards."

Ridiculous imho. Many college professors already believe the ap calc is not up to snuff. What will happen now?

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ChemProf said...

It will take a while for colleges to figure out what the new AP exams mean. Already, AP credit is limited -- even at my second tier institution, we only take a 4 or 5 on the exam, and don't let students use the English AP to skip out of the basic writing course. For Chemistry, the AP only gets you out of one semester, and may leave you unprepared for the second. If everyone with AP credit starts doing poorly in the spring, then we'll stop giving even that much credit.