My Goal in Blogging

I started this blog in May of 2008, shortly after my election to the School Committee, because I believed it was very important to both provide the community with an opportunity to share their thoughts with me about our schools and to provide me with an opportunity for me to ask questions and share my thoughts and reasoning. I have found the conversation generated on my blog to be extremely helpful to me in learning community views on many issues. I appreciate the many people who have taken the time to share their views. I believe it is critical to the quality of our public schools to have a public discussion of our community priorities, concerns and aspirations.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

City Schools Revel in AP Success Stories

I'm posting a link to a Gazette story on the recent AP test successes experienced at both Northampton High and Easthampton High ( I congratulate the leaders of both of these schools in the tremendous success they've experienced in terms of increasing the number of kids taking AP tests AND at increasing the passing rate! In these communities increasing AP participation and success is seen as a positive, an indication that students are reaching for and achieving significant academic goals. Some in Amherst have expressed that AP classes have negative connotations of elitism and grinding down of creativity. However, many high school students across the river, and across the country, experience AP classes as intellectually challenging and engaging. They feel very proud of their accomplishments, and save money and time in college by gaining college credit and/or placing out of intro level classes. That is not to suggest that AP classes are the ONLY, or even the MOST, rewarding classes. It is just to acknowledge that very strong, good high schools offer such classes, and in many other communities, having these classes, and having students succeed in these classes, is a point of pride. Perhaps we can find a way to offer more AP classes for those in Amherst that want to take them, in particular the most commonly offered classes such as AP Statistics and AP Chemistry. I am confident our talented teachers could find a way to teach the curriculum of these classes without making them boring or teaching to the test. It would give our academically oriented students a more even playing field with their peers when they get to college.


Anonymous said...

We have to prepare the kids in our schools to be competitive with kids from all over the world at colleges and universities. Please no more of this talk about AP classes being elitist, or how our teachers can teach it better. Just put some AP classes out there and if kids want to take them, back away and let them take the classes for goodness sakes.

Anonymous said...

I went to the College Fair at ARHS tonight and heard several conversations regarding AP classes. I don't know if they were Amherst students, but I was impressed by the questions they were asking the college reps.

Anonymous said...

We talk about social justice here in Amherst, but don't always carry through on actions. Having more AP classes (and encouraging more students to take them), has the potential to save students money paying for college. Many colleges accept AP credits, which saves a student from paying for that credit at colleges. This helps financially strapped families. Why wouldn't we do this?

Anonymous said...

Regarding September 29, 2010 7:45 AM post: Catherine mentioned this some time ago. She was able to use her AP classes at Stanford and thereby start as a sophomore. Thank you for bringing this idea up again. The idea obviously needs re-repeating, and re-repeating, and re-repeating. Maybe now it will sink in at the high school.

Anonymous said...

Also, taking AP classes can make students stronger applicants to better colleges, helping students of all economic backgrounds.

Anonymous said...

Regarding the August 30 Regional Committee meeting: How can people get up and say the vote for charging a fee for sports was unfair because it places an extra burden on the poor in the town. And out of the other side of their mouth say it wasn't fair to have the vote in the summer because there was no public input because people were on vacation??? Really? You are too poor to pay an equipment fee for sports, but you took a vacation? My husband has a 6 figure salary and we didn't take a vacation this summer or for the last several summers. If you took a vacation this past summer, you're doing better than a lot of people, and you can probably afford a sports equipment fee.

Anonymous said...

FYI =for all of you who seem to think that ARHS is deficient in this area: the HS currently offers 13 or 14 formal AP classes. In addition students can sit for the AP exam in at least 2 other subjects ( English and Music Theory). I know that reading this blog that you might get the impression that ARHS doesn't offer that many AP classes- just because they don't offer AP Chemistry or Stats. ANd another FYI NHS got a lot of private foundation money and technical support to beef up their AP program- specifically because it wasn't very good. ARHS on the other hand would not have been able to apply for these dollars because it already had a comprehensive and successful AP program in place.

Anonymous said...

If they're offering so many AP classes, why are kids having to take on-line classes thru Stanford University's gifted and talented on-line high school, and taking classes at UMass?

Anonymous said...

So, does Anon 10:14 not believe ARHS is offering all those AP classes? What is the point of your comment Anon 10:14?

Catherine A. Sanderson said...

My responses:

Anonymous 4:50 - Well said. I agree!

Anonymous 9:10 - thanks for sharing - that is good to know!

Anonymous 7:45 - I agree. It is very frustrating to repeatedly hear the idea of AP classes criticized, when there are clearly benefits of such classes.

Anonymous 8:15 - agreed. Good point.

Anonymous 10:05 - two points here. I did a blog post earlier this year on the AP classes offered at ARHS versus Northampton High. Here is what I found (and remember, ARHS is larger than NHS): Both schools offer AP English Literature, AP European History, AP Bio, AP Physics C, AP Calculus AB, AP French, and AP Spanish.

In addition to those 7 classes, Amherst also offers 4 additional AP classes: AP Calculus BC, AP Latin, AP Chinese, and AP Environmental Studies (although I believe AP Environmental Studies is now not being offered as a regular class, given the new 9th grade class).

In addition to these 7 classes, Northampton offers 5 additional AP classes: AP Chemistry, AP Physics B, AP Statistics, AP US History, and AP Microeconomics.

Interestingly, although both schools offer basically the same number of AP classes (11 versus 12 -- although of course Amherst is a larger high school with more overall classes and students and faculty), the types of AP classes differ considerably. In Amherst, 36% of the AP classes offered are in world language (4 of the 11), 45% are in math and science (combined; 5 of the 11), and 18% are in English/social studies combined (2 of 11). In Northampton, 17% of the AP classes offered are in world language (2 of 12), 50% are in math and science (6 of the 12), and 34% are in English/social studies combined (4 of the 12).

AP Chemistry and AP Statistics are standard AP classes that are offered at most other MSAN schools and most schools in our comparison group, and I would really hope that these are courses we could offer as well for interested students. I have been on the SC for over 2 years, and never have we been asked for more funding to pay for either of these classes - which I think at least some members of the SC would be glad to provide if requested!

Anonymous said...

I say this rather bluntly: No one questions the legitimacy (not expense) of SPED classes for the developmentally delayed. Well having a high IQ is every bit as much of a disability and what the AP courses do is allow some students to be "normal" -- at least in one class -- at least for a little while...

Anonymous said...

Anon 5:52

As the parent of both typical/bright intellectual and intellectually challenged children I find your comment mean spirited.

It also ignores the intent of SPED law which was written to prevent discrimination against children who cannot defend themselves yet who deserve an appropriate education.

In Amherst we have analogous situations in both regular and Special education - a lack of creativity has created a culture of mediocrity. The District has a huge budget and tremendous potential. Administrators are working with a great group of educators but fail to lead in a manner that supports our children - whether they are Special like your brilliant child or with challenges like mine.

Kate said...

Anonymous 5:52:

Having a high IQ is not, in and of itself, a disability. I'm not sure if you're trying to make an analogy or if you're referring to a brilliant child who nonetheless has a disability.

Your child may feel socially ostracized, which is painful and unfortunate, but not a disability. Your child may be bored in school, but that is not a disability. On the other hand, these may be symptoms of a disability. Special education covers a whole range of children, including but not limited to those who are "developmentally delayed."

Special Education is intended to allow a child with a disability to access the curriculum. It sounds as if your child is able to access the curriculum but you're not happy with the curriculum. These are not the same things.

Catherine A. Sanderson said...

My responses:

Anonymous 5:52 - my understanding is that children with a pretty large range of abilities can do quite well in AP classes ... I think they are not intended for just the high IQ ... I'm reminded of the story shown in Stand and Deliver about the very strong AP Calculus scores in a class from an inner-city HS in LA (taught by a gifted teacher). I believe many kids can benefit from a rich and engaging and rigorous curriculum (which can be provided in both AP and non-AP classes). But I believe the intent of your comment is to say that high achieving/IQ students also deserve classes that fit their needs, which I think is a valid and important point.

Anonymous 7:04 - I think you raise an important point re. the similarity in how education IN GENERAL is approached too often in our district. I frankly hear the same concerns from parents of special education and regular education students -- the district isn't always meeting the needs of MY child, and that strikes me as important to recognize.

Kate - thank you for your very thoughtful post in response to the prior poster. I agree with you re. the distinctions, and appreciate the constructive tone you used to share your wisdom. THANKS for sharing your insight here.