There’s a huge rush for college-bound students to sign up for AP classes in high school so they can accumulate early college credit after taking the college board AP exams. To students, taking AP classes means they can take the AP test and pass out of intro classes in college to save time and save money in college. But, the recent New York Time’s article points out, students aren’t necessarily getting the most out of these challenging college classes. Often times high school teachers wind up teaching just for the AP test and pass over the importance of abstract and analytical thinking that is needed to succeed in college.
This teaching for the test trend, however, is about to change. College Board will embark on a new direction for Advanced Placement that is anchored in a curriculum that focuses on what students need to be able to do with their knowledge, not just how to take a test:
As A.P. has proliferated, spreading to more than 30 subjects with 1.8 million students taking 3.2 million tests, the program has won praise for giving students an early chance at more challenging work. But many of the courses, particularly in the sciences and history, have also been criticized for overwhelming students with facts to memorize and then rushing through important topics. Students and educators alike say that biology, with 172,000 test takers this year, is one of the worst offenders.
A.P. teachers have long complained that lingering for an extra 10 or 15 minutes on a topic can be a zero-sum game, squeezing out something else that needs to be covered for the exam. PowerPoint lectures are the rule. The homework wears down many students. And studies show that most schools do the same canned laboratory exercises, providing little sense of the thrill of scientific discovery….
….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.
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