Wednesday, March 28, 2012

AP English: Untracking High School Students

Question: What was the effect of opening students to AP classes in English who did not score very well in the SAT?

 Answer/Quote: “ ‘Opening up AP English to all students who were willing to commit to a rigorous summer and yearlong regimen of writing and reading allowed me to study firsthand what happens when students are given choices in their schooling. I discovered that students with combined SAT scores around 700 can learn with students whose combined scores hover around 1300, that students with SAT verbal scores of less than 500 can earn a  4 or 5 on the AP test; that students with SAT verbal scores as low as 300 can pass the University of California Subject A exam. I discovered that students of differing abilities can discuss sophisticated literature and can respond to one another’s writing in ways that lead to thoughtful revision. I discovered that giving students the chance to elect to work at the highest academic levels empowers them to see themselves as learners.’ ”

Excerpt from Joan Kernan Cone’s recent article in Kappan (“Untracking Advanced Placement English: Creating Opportunity Is Not Enough,” May 1992.)

Title: In “This World of English: Coming Untracked: One Teacher’s Story.” English Journal (September 1992), 13.

Comment: I am reminded by this teacher’s story about opening AP English to students whom the SAT suggested could not be successful of the way in which we (Conestoga High School, Berwyn, PA) allowed students to select the levels of their courses. At the AP level, we had guidelines that helped us to make a decision about whether students would be successful, including grade-point average, writing sample, teacher recommendation, etc. The criteria were flexible enough to allow students who demonstrated success in their classes, especially in writing, with teacher recommendation, to be accepted. The results were the same as suggested by the teachers in this article. RayS.

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