Monday, February 14, 2011

AP Mania!

This week the 10th and 11th grade will each have an assembly to talk about AP offerings for the 2011-2012 year. As a small school (with a small teaching staff), we have to strike a very careful balance in terms of the number of AP subjects we can offer and the size of the AP classes. This means that every year some students are disappointed because we either don't offer a course they wish they could take or we are not able to include them in the course due to more demand than there are slots (or their failure to meet eligibility criteria).

You can read more about our AP Policy here, but click below where you'll find some basics for AP course selection.

- Our school philosophy strives to make it so that students elect to take an AP course because they passionate about the subject, not because they think they 'need' their transcript to lead to admission to college. Yes, colleges look at the courses you choose to take, but far too often it is easy to approach the situation wondering "I need to take one or two AP classes for colleges to see, which ones will I be able to get into . . . " when really the conversation should start with "I'm so eager to go deeper into my studies in (insert subject here), I'm going to request that AP course and hope I can take it"

- There are some basic eligibility requirements for AP courses - we evaluate a student's overall GPA, subject specific GPA, attendance, lateness, and commitment to their studies. A strong AP candidate is one that has a thirst for knowledge in a subject and is eager to put in more time in that subject. They are also expected to go beyond just logging hours and move toward higher level critical thinking.

- EVERY class at ElRo is designed to be challenging. We expect EVERY student to pass the Regents exams and EVERY student to be studious, bright, and engaged in the classroom. Failure to be approved for an AP course does not mean that the school doesn't feel you are a highly capable student with the ability to do great work, it just means that in that particular subject we were not able to place you in the class.

- The question is often posed: Do colleges want to see As in easier classes or lower grades in AP classes. A college representative answered this best this fall at an ElRo visit when she said, "we want you to get As in AP classes." ;) That was kind of a joke, but there is a lot of truth to it too. Colleges that accept, say, 1 in 4 of their applicants are in a position to really split hairs and expect top grades in the most challenging courses. But, most colleges take more applicants than that. So my advice is to first forget about the grade and ask yourself if you are passionate about the subject. If the class ends up meeting zero period, would you be excited to go? If your grade wasn't weighted, would you still be interested in the class? If grades didn't exist and you were in school just for the pure joy of learning, would you be excited about this subject? If the answers to those questions are yes, proceed to the second stage of questions. The next thing to consider is: given the rest of my courses, will I be able to balance doing all my school work AND devote the time and energy needed for this AP course? As a college counselor, my advice would be to always be aiming for an 85 or higher in every class. If you are already struggling in some subjects to earn a B, think twice about how many APs you request, even if they are in a different subject. Or perhaps think about how MANY you take. For example, if you love math and it comes easy to you, AP Calc may be a great idea, even if you have a harder time with the humanities. But, instead of trying to take two AP classes, maybe stick to just AP Calc and focus the rest of your time in keeping your other subjects in check.

-  Enrolling in an AP class isn't just about the passion and the colleges seeing your course rigor, there is also the AP exam that is the culmination of the course and can result in college credit being awarded for the class. All students in the course must sit for the exam. As a school, we have to be accountable to try and have our students earn as many scores as possible that will earn them credit . The College Board provides us with a tool to predict AP exam performance and we anticipate using it to help determine class placement. It may also be used to factor into course appeals. We have never been a school that is just about test scores and I hope we never will be, but it is always a goal for the school to improve our AP exam performance and help students earn as much credit as possible in the process.

**This image is an ode to Valentine's Day. Please do not misconstrue the blog post image to represent the thoughts and feelings of the blogger. I do not <3 any product of the College Board or any system that causes so much unnecessary stress for students and parents. I do, however, <3 candy.**