AP (Advanced Placement)

S L Forsburg forsburg at nospamsalk.edu
Sun Nov 30 11:39:46 EST 1997


Mary Ann wrote
> > I cannot see that a tenth grade Biology Class offered as an AP or
> honors
> > class which adds to the grade point is substantively educational....

When I was in high school (early 80s), AP classes were explicitly 
intended to be the equivalent of first year college classes.  Not
surprisingly, you had to be a senior to take them, and you had to
have fulfilled prerequisites...ie, no AP Biology without regular
Biology or Chemistry, etc.   Almost no one took AP Chemistry 
because it was so excruciatingly difficult.  

Now, 15 years later,  high school students want lab experience
and tell me that they took AP everything, including Biology --  
but no way do they  comprehend even the basics like the central dogma 
(DNA->RNA->protein).  They've managed to hit the points on the exams,
but it hasn't sunk in. And, frankly, they should NOT be exempted from
undergraduate biology.  MaryAnn rightly points out that this is not
"real" AP, but degenerates into a prestige issue for the school
and the student.  Too bad.  

What's scary is that basic principles haven't sunk in 
in many undergraduates I see (I don't teach undergrads, but again,
they want to get lab experience)--maybe because of premature AP?  
And what's absolutely terrifying is that some of these bright 
undergrads can't figure out powers of ten or scientific 
notation WITHOUT A CALCULATOR.

karen wrote
> I think it depends on the students (and I know that it's difficult to
> tell this ahead of time). I was completely bored all through school,
> and by the time I got to 10th grade or so, was so alienated by school
> that I was almost suicidal. All I could think was, I have to spend
> three more years staring at the ceiling, finishing my work in the
> first  ten minutes of class and then spending the next 
> forty waiting for everyone else to catch up. 

I remember feeling that.  I also remember the popular 
fallacy that the bright kids benefited from helping out the 
kids who didn't get it.  Awful.  Fortunately, my high school 
was "tracked" for some subjects, which allowed everyone to be 
challenged.  As I recall, they moved people between tracks 
flexibly. Even so, I remember being often bored and frustrated by
how slow it went, and thinking that being bright was one of 
the worst things you could wish on someone. 

-- 
-susan
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S L Forsburg, PhD  forsburg at salk.edu
Molecular Biology and Virology Lab          
The Salk Institute, La Jolla CA 
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