Pinellas school board candidates on AP classes
The following chart ran next to Sunday's St. Petersburg Times story about the Pinellas school board candidates and what they think of expanding fundamental schools. It shows where the candidates stand on the district's effort to increase participation in Advanced Placement classes. This is an issue that shouldn't get lost in the shuffle (and judging by the comments to the fundamental story, it did) so we'll let it stand alone here.
Where the candidates stand on AP classes
Like many school districts, Pinellas is rapidly increasing the numbers of students taking college-caliber Advanced Placement classes. Some say the approach is challenging students to reach higher; others say underprepared students water down the experience for brighter students. Is the district’s approach the right one?
Terry Krassner: Unsure, but worries that the district is putting too much emphasis on AP and not enough on career and technical programs. “It just seems like maybe we’re pushing too much into that direction where maybe they can be pushed in other directions and still feel like they’re thriving and learning and reaching your goals.”
Fonda Huff: No. She said the district is forcing students into AP programs when they are not ready, and discouraging some so much they quit school. “I feel like we are actually increasing the dropout rate by making these kids go into AP classes and be unsuccessful. It’s frustrating them and they’re dropping out or not coming to school.”
Greg Hunsinger: He supports more rigorous screening of students before admitting them to such classes. “When the student isn’t being successful, is that doing more harm than good?” The district should not be pressuring schools to increase the numbers of AP students. Instead, non-AP courses should be more rigorous.
Peggy O’Shea: Supports enrolling more students in AP, especially when the district augments that with programs to help nontraditional AP students get the study skills needed for the classes: “It’s good for kids to know, ‘Hey, you can do this. You are capable’ … When you put more kids in it, you’re going to have some who cut it and some who don’t, sure. But why not let them try it?”
Linda Lerner: Unsure. Said she needs to look more closely at the data. “I think students can gain from an AP class even though they don’t get the (passing) scores. But we need to look at what the scores are and how many students are getting extremely low scores. I think we should continue to get underrepresented populations to take higher level courses, but I’d like to see an analysis of the outcomes.”
Brian Hawley: Unsure. Said more student should be given the opportunity to take AP classes. But he also worries that teachers are being forced to weaken AP curriculum and inflate grades for underprepared students. “These teachers need to be empowered to keep the standards as rigorous as they always have been without any thought of being penalized for the outcomes.”
Keisha Bell: She favors extending the option to more students, saying people rise to expectations. “A lot of times students are able to perform at higher levels but they’re not given the opportunities.”
Jim Jackson: He knows there’s been some push-back from teachers. But he believes the payoff is worth it: “I’m all for it … Raise the bar. Raise expectations. Do good assessments.”
Lew Williams: As an educator, Williams led an effort to increase African-American enrollment in advanced classes and favors opening the door wider: “I think initially the overall average may not be as great as it has been. But the benefit the students will receive in this higher order instruction will outweigh that.”