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Tuesday's letters: AP classes are not for everyone

AP tests vex teachers, too | Dec. 12, story

AP classes are not for everyone

The movement to put more and more students into AP courses is based on a false understanding of what Advanced Placement is for, and is a disaster in the making for high school teachers, students and for those of us who receive these students in our college classes.

This should be clear from the quote from Evelyn Rosetti in the article. Rosetti is concerned that her daughter be put into an AP class with a teacher with a high success rate, because "her chances of succeeding are lessened by a teacher who doesn't have a high success rate." But by her own admission, Rosetti's daughter is "struggling" in the subject in question. Why would you put a student in an Advanced Placement class in a subject in which she is struggling?

Advanced Placement classes are not remedial — quite the opposite, they are, well, advanced. The entire purpose of advanced placement is to give exceptional students the opportunity to test out of general education requirements in college. Why in the world would we assume that this is an opportunity the majority of students should be able to take advantage of? By definition, it is not.

Advanced Placement is designed only for a select group of students who are advanced in their mastery of a subject. When the system pushes to put more and more students in these classes, it places unreasonable burdens on teachers, who are then expected to pull struggling students into the realm of exceptionality in one year. Not all students can be successful in Advanced Placement, and there is nothing wrong with that. Let them take the necessary courses in college, just like they normally would.

Advanced Placement should remain what it was meant to be: an opportunity for truly advanced students to be rewarded for their achievements by testing out of a college requirement.

Rebecca Johns, St. Petersburg

AP tests vex teachers, too | Dec. 12, story

Irresponsible comments

As a former long-time AP language and composition teacher, a current International Baccalaureate teacher and an AP reader, I am appalled by the implications of this article and, most especially, by the irresponsible comments of Hillsborough County School Board member Jennifer Faliero.

As the article correctly states, the Hillsborough school district has pushed in the last several years to place larger numbers of students in AP classes. While the philosophy that students should take more rigorous coursework in order succeed in college has merit, the fact remains that many students who enter AP courses lack the skills and, more importantly, the requisite work habits needed for success. To blame teachers for the resulting lower exam results is misguided and unfair.

Additionally, as schools add more and more sections of AP courses, they naturally need bodies to teach them. As the article states, new instructors need time to hone their skills, but the huge number of variables that potentially exist within a group of students may mean that an individual teacher — especially given the subject — may never have "acceptable" pass rates. Add to this the truth that teaching AP courses well means hours of extra work, and the pool of viable candidates diminishes further.

Beyond the above concerns, I am incredulous that Hillsborough School Board member Faliero would make comments such as, "There are just some teachers you don't want your kid to have." That statement, coupled with a scenario in which parents and students "shop" for teachers, displays flagrant disrespect. As far as I know, scheduling is not analogous to choosing dishes from a Chinese restaurant menu. Surely Faliero realizes that her words have just opened a proverbial flood gate of parents and students who wish to treat teachers as pawns in their entitled game of chess. What will now stop a parent from walking into an administrator's office and quoting Faliero?

Mary Bell, Tampa

AP tests vex teachers, too | Dec. 12, story

Tolerating failure

The Times article about teachers being vexed by AP failure is indicative of the source of the problem: acceptance of poor results.

An experienced teacher was quoted as saying that first-year AP teachers "deserve some slack." Unfortunately first-year teacher's students don't get slack with college admissions because they had a poor teacher. Students have only one opportunity with an AP class, and improved teaching performance in future years does nothing for the students who sufferer from poor instruction while the teacher gains experience.

Everyone needs time to acquire the skills to do a job but in many fields inexperienced workers are not permitted to cause failures. The aviation industry, for example, doesn't allow inexperienced pilots to crash planes. Gibbs High principal Kevin Gordon is correct when he observes that "it is time to do something different."

Allowing kids to fail AP tests because of inexperienced teachers is folly not deserving of "some slack" or any other allowance for failure.

Quality processes in virtually every industry strive to create systems where successful output is independent of the worker. It is way past time for the same to be true of education.

Bruce Mattern, Treasure Island

Pakistan: 5 U.S. men sought holy war Dec. 11, story

Examine their motives

The story about the "very nice guy, very cordial, very friendly" Muslim dental student who, with his friends, went to the far side of world to kill fellow Americans did not mention the "why" and "how" of jihad motivation.

Comparatively, the news stories about the neo-Nazi and Blackwater agents are robustly revealing on the motivating ideas that drive right-of-center miscreants. Why is it that stories about jihad implacables and wanna-bes never delve into the well known specific ideas that motivate young Americans to transition easily from student to mujahedeen? Why does our particularly learned Harvard educated president in Oslo stop at "twisted ideology" instead of explaining to us what takfir means to Ramy Zamzam?

When the cops bring him and Umer, Ahmed, Waqar and Aman back from their vacation in Pakistan, I hope that one of them will go before the microphones and help the president, and the rest of us, understand what he really means about "Muslims must do something."

Gary Harrington, St. Petersburg

House bill extends tax breaks | Dec. 10, story

Political parlor tricks

This story reported that "tax breaks are routinely extended each year but there are big disagreements over the tax increases that would pay for them."

This is classic political nonsense: Take money from one pocket and put it in the other and then claim they have reduced taxes while blaming the other party for the corresponding increases. Is there any wonder why the American public's opinion about Congress is the lowest it has ever been?

Let's forget bipartisanship and just find politicians with common sense and who understand that the voters expect governance and not parlor tricks.

Thomas I. Hayes, St. Petersburg

Tuesday's letters: AP classes are not for everyone 12/14/09 [Last modified: Monday, December 14, 2009 7:07pm]
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