Property Grunt

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Scarsdale is f**ked: Changes in the AP

Think about it.

There have been some developments with the College Board in regards to the Advanced Placement curriculum.

Rethinking Advanced Placement

Next month, the board, the nonprofit organization that owns the A.P. exams as well as the SAT, will release a wholesale revamping of A.P. biology as well as United States history — with 387,000 test-takers the most popular A.P. subject. A preview of the changes shows that the board will slash the amount of material students need to know for the tests and provide, for the first time, a curriculum framework for what courses should look like. The goal is to clear students’ minds to focus on bigger concepts and stimulate more analytic thinking. In biology, a host of more creative, hands-on experiments are intended to help students think more like scientists.

The changes, which are to take effect in the 2012-13 school year, are part of a sweeping redesign of the entire A.P. program. Instead of just providing teachers with a list of points that need to be covered for the exams, the College Board will create these detailed standards for each subject and create new exams to match.
Trevor Packer, the College Board’s vice president for Advanced Placement, notes that the changes mark a new direction for the board, which has focused on the tests more than the courses. The rollout of “the New A.P.,” as the board describes it, will actually start this year with a new curriculum taking effect in two smaller programs, German and French language. Major revisions to physics, chemistry, European history, world history and art history will follow, with the hope of being ready for exams in 2014 or 2015.

“We really believe that the New A.P. needs to be anchored in a curriculum that focuses on what students need to be able to do with their knowledge,” Mr. Packer says. A.P. teachers made clear that such a shift was impossible unless the breadth of material covered was pared down. Courses in English and math are manageable, Mr. Packer says, and will not be revised until later.

The new approach is important because critical thinking skills are considered essential for advanced college courses and jobs in today’s information-based economy. College administrators and veteran A.P. teachers familiar with the new biology curriculum believe the changes could have significant reverberations for how science is taught in introductory college classes and even elementary school classrooms, and might bring some of the excitement back to science learning.
“I really think this is a game-changer,” says Gordon E. Uno, a botany professor at the University of Oklahoma who has helped plan the biology changes.

And here is one indication of how pumped up the College Board is about the revitalization: If Mr. Packer were a high school junior next year, would he take the old A.P. biology or wait till his senior year for the new one?
“I would absolutely wait,” he says.
One of the fascinating aspects of this article is this point

Several elite private high schools have also dropped A.P. courses. In defiance, the public school district in Scarsdale, N.Y., created its own in-depth courses called Advanced Topics. (For college credit, students still have to do well on the A.P. or another placement exam.)

Scarsdale High School sees some synchronicity. “It appears to be clearly much more in line with what we are trying to emphasize this year,” says Beth Schoenbrun, the school’s’ co-director of Science Research. “It certainly seems to allow for a good deal more flexibility in terms of what is covered in the classroom.”

As many of you know, I have had my reservations regarding the Advanced Topics Program as indicated by these entries below.

Breaking News: Scarsdale is f**ked

Scarsdale is f**ked: Scarsdale launches charm offensive.

With all these changes that have occurred, one would think that the Grunt would take his place at the table have himself a plate of humble pie.


Changes have been made to the AP curriculum and Scarsdale may have played a role in it. However, Scarsdale took the wrong approach in making these changes.

As good as these Scarsdale High School teachers are and their educational programs, they are ill prepared to devise a proper curriculum to replace the Advanced Placement courses. If you want further details on my analysis, feel free to go to my previous entries. I will however add some further anecdotal evidence that I have learned regarding the Advanced Topics program.

After the pilot phase of the AT program was completed, there was a town hall meeting where students discussed their experiences. One frightening story was from one student who took the AP American History exam. There was a question about the Vietnam war which was not covered by the AT program. Fortunately, he had studied the Vietnam war on his own, unfortunately, many of classmates did not. This story can be confirmed in the Scarsdale Inqurier archives.

The following is a story that I have confirmed personally about the Advanced Topics Psychology class. Now part of the exam for Advanced Placement Psychology is statistics. The teacher responsible for decided to eliminate statistics from the Advanced Topics course, even though it was going to be on the test.


The teacher had a strong dislike for math.

It does not matter how much you are paying these teachers and what resources are at their disposal. The primary job of a teacher is to teach their students. Not to create a curriculum that rivals a half century exam program designed by a group who have an army of professionals at their disposal.

One could argue that these changes in the AP curriculum would not have occurred without Scarsdale taking the initiative in creating their own curriculum. That is all well and good, but at the cost of the students of Scarsdale High School? A lot of the parents work themselves to the bone in order for their kids to live in that school district. And the Scarsdale School System has decided to play a game of chicken with the College Board by sticking these kids into a mustang without seat belts.

If the changes bring a positive reaction, there will probably be more modifications to the AP curriculum. Even if these modifications meet Scarsdale Standards, it is doubtful that Scarsdale will discard their precious Advanced Topics program.

No one will admit this, but the Advanced Topics program is a marketing tool for Scarsdale High School.

Share of lower scores grows with popularity of Advanced Placement tests

Across the country, all high schools are eager to lap up the AP pool. Which increases the competition for Scarsdale and makes it harder for their students to standout. Therefore they have to do something drastic so that they shine in this sea of Advanced Placement.

Now the only way the Grunt will sit up to the table and feast on humble pie is if the Scarsdale School System, College Board or both release the scores of all the students and see the effectiveness of the program. Since the measure of effectiveness of the AT curriculum is the AP test then lets see where which AP tests students achieved 5’s. And let’s see where they scored the lowest.

But full transparency is highly unlikely from the Scarsdale School System. If there are weaknesses in the curriculum, those scores will point them out. It will be even worse when the strengths of the AT program are revealed.

Think about it.

If word gets out that students were able to score 4’s and 5’s in certain subjects from the Advanced Topics curriculum, there will a riot as the next class of students register for those particular classes. While the weak classes will just wither and die.

Sooner or later someone is going to get really perturbed and expose on has happened behind the scenes. And when that happens, property values are going to get hit.