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AP is not for everyone

I read with interest The Sun's long-time-in-coming article/expose about the increase in Advanced Placement course work and exam participation over the last 15 years. Those of us who have worked and/or are still working in the public school systems of Maryland are not surprised by this phenomenon. We have seen our superintendents increasingly promote and push for greater participation in what was once considered a program for very dedicated, very bright, and very ambitious students. I am sure that others in the ranks are not at all surprised by the discrepancy shown in this article between those significant numbers of students taking AP courses versus the numbers of students earning a 3, 4, or 5 passing score on the tests. Further, it is not surprising to read that the College Board has significantly increased its profits brought about by the increases in numbers of students taking SAT and AP as promoted by local school superintendents down through the ranks of high school principals.

These data are commensurate with the push made by federal and state testing mandates and school superintendents during the same period to get almost all students to take Algebra I and II; Honors and GT courses; and other elite academic measures. No person working in the school systems is surprised by the millions of taxpayer dollars that are spent in MD and across the nation to increase student participation in these AP programs in the name of "raising standards." What is a possible fallacy is that moving large numbers of students into preparation programs even at middle school (as Baltimore County schools Superintendent Dallas Dance suggests is needed) will have a different result. And what is an even greater fallacy is that more students have an interest to pursue what have always been very elite academic programs.

What has unfortunately been the case for many years is that there has been no other option for students who are wishing to find their niche in school and in life and excel at something that holds as much respect as AP academics. It is unfortunate that while the editors of The Sun provided a two-page expose on this AP topic that has long been waiting more exposure, The Sun provided only one small photo and caption inside the same paper on the brand new state-of-the art Dundalk High School-Sollers Point Vocational Technical High School, which will provide a variety of outstanding high-tech educational opportunities leading to career opportunities for many fortunate students coming from Southeast and Northeast Baltimore County.

Why has it taken so long for the tide to turn to place emphasis on what our economy has long been telling us — that we need to provide more students with the opportunity for their public school to be the place where they find their place in society and to learn a skill that will allow them to move seamlessly into a job or community college setting where their skills can be further advanced (as in the connection among Dundalk, Sollers Point, and CCBC-Dundalk on adjoining campuses)?

The Sun needs to do a further investigation to show how the College Board has grown deeper pockets at the expense of many students who have been led to believe they are prepared for college level testing; at the expense of taxpayers who have paid millions of dollars for unprepared students to take thousands of tests when tax dollars could have been better spent to provide more vocational programs like those offered at the new Sollers Point; and at the expense of teachers who have been made to feel inferior when their students are not prepared to do well in the courses and pass the tests that match the College Board curriculum that was designed for maybe 20 percent of the student citizenry, not 50 percent.

—Paula Simon

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
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