Elia: AP shift is "the best for kids"
As a tidal wave of Hillsborough students takes AP tests over the next two weeks, there are plenty of fair questions to ask about one of the most radical changes that high schools in Tampa Bay, or Florida, have ever seen. But Hillsborough Superintendent MaryEllen Elia says the pros far outweigh the cons. And she's getting two thumbs up from Florida Education Commissioner Eric J. Smith.
"I've taken my licks," Elia told the Gradebook. "In the end, it's the best for kids."
What Hillsborough is doing is "absolutely the right strategy," Smith said, a former vice president at the College Board.
Sunday's St. Petersburg Times story noted many concerns, from AP rigor potentially being watered down to teachers being frustrated by the range of ability levels that new AP kids bring to their classrooms. Ever since the district signed a three-year partnership with the College Board last spring, critics have asked: Why so far, so fast?
Elia's response: "How long are you going to wait to do the right thing? I can't wait. Every time we have another graduating class, and we haven't given them the courses they need to be prepared for Hillsborough Community College and the University of South Florida, we haven't done what we needed to do."
Critics keep asking about the AP bonus provisions in Elia's contract, too, which are based on participation rates, not passage rates. (As the Gradebook noted in December, Elia gave her entire bonus to the Hillsborough Education Foundation .)
"I know there are the detractors," she said, but "nobody in their right mind would think we would do the changes we've done" for a few thousand dollars in bonus money.
- Ron Matus, state education reporter