Wednesday, October 17, 2018

No Choice In A School Choice District?

I recently received an email from a Dwight Morrow High School student who wants the public to weigh in on recent changes that have upset a large number of High School Students and their Parents.

Today, another student informed me that the high school principal is not allowing students to drop AP Honors courses that they never signed up to take in the first place. There were tears involved. Now why would a high school administration deny a student's request to switch out of an AP Honors course that they never selected and do not want to continue? 

AP Honors is not a course that students are normally forced to take, not even in the Academy@Englewood. Several School Choice students complained at a Board meeting earlier this year about being forced to take an AP Biology course even if their major was Law and Public Safety. At the time, I thought this was unfair, but I never dreamed that they would also force students in the Comprehensive High School to also take AP courses in the 9th grade. I was wrong. The College Board does not recommend this practice.
"...Educators should be mindful of the following when considering offering AP to younger students. AP courses are rarely offered in 9th grade, and exam results show that, for the most part, 9th grade students are not sufficiently prepared to participate in a college-level course. Therefore, the College Board believes these students would be better served by coursework focusing on the academic building blocks necessary for later, successful enrollment in college-level courses. Many college admissions officers support this position, feeling that students should not be rushed into AP coursework, but should instead develop the necessary skills and conceptual understandings in foundational courses prior to enrolling in AP. AP coursework completed in 9th grade is not often deemed credible by the higher education community...."
In my quest to answer this burning question, I ran across an article in the NY Times that gave me pause....
"Who Benefits From the Expansion of A.P. Classes? Millions of federal and state dollars are spent each year on increasing the number of Advanced Placement classes in low-income majority black and Latino high schools. Is this a benefit to the students or a payday for the testing company?"
The following overview (in italics) was taken directly from the College Board website. Links from various other sources were provided by the writer:
"...The Advanced Placement Program enables willing and academically prepared students to pursue college-level studies while still in high school. The program consists of college-level courses developed by the AP Program that high schools can choose to offer, and corresponding exams that are administered once a year...."

Fast Facts

  • There are 38 AP courses in seven subject categories.
  • Each AP course is modeled on a comparable introductory college course in the subject. 
  • Each course culminates in a standardized college-level assessment, or AP Exam.
  • AP Exams are given in May each year at testing locations all over the world.
  • Schools must be authorized by the AP Course Audit to offer approved AP courses and use the AP designation.


Taking AP courses and exams can help students:

  • Stand out on college applications. AP courses on a student’s transcript show that they hve challenged themselves with the most rigorous courses available to them. Success on an AP Exam shows that they are ready for college-level coursework.

  • Earn college credit and/or skip introductory courses in college. Most four-year colleges and universities in the United States—as well as many institutions in more than 100 other countries—grant students credit, placement, or both for qualifying AP Exam scores.

How It Works

Teachers Design Their Own AP Courses
Peter Schwartz,
husband to Elisabeth Schwartz who now serves
on the Englewood School Board.

Click this link and read his Biography.
The AP Program does not supply syllabi for AP courses. What we supply is a detailed set of expectations about what content a college-level course in that subject should cover. AP teachers design their own syllabi with these standards in mind. (They can also choose to use existing, approved syllabi.) We review each course design through a process called the AP Course Audit before authorizing your school to call the course “AP.”)

AP Exams Assess Knowledge and Skills Learned in the Course
Each AP course concludes with an AP Exam. These assessments are designed by the same expert committee that designed the course. The exams are scored on a scale of 1 to 5 by college and university professors and experienced AP teachers. Many U.S. colleges offer credit for AP Exam scores of 3 or higher.  AP Exams are administered at authorized schools and test centers.
Which Students Should Take AP?
Elisabeth Schwartz, current
School Board Member

All students who are willing and academically prepared to accept the challenge of a rigorous academic curriculum should be considered for admission to AP courses.

The College Board encourages the elimination of barriers that restrict access to AP courses for students from ethnic, racial and socioeconomic groups that have been traditionally underrepresented in the AP Program. Schools should make every effort to ensure that their AP classes reflect the diversity of their student population.

Certain AP courses have prerequisites. For example, students taking AP Biology should have completed high school courses in Biology and Chemistry.  Check the individual course pages to see this information.

Who Can Teach AP?

There are no formal requirements or mandatory professional development for teachers of AP courses, with the exception of teachers of AP Seminar and AP Research, who must complete a summer workshop and online training.

However, even if it’s not required for your course, we strongly recommend that AP teachers take part in professional development in their subject area before teaching the AP course for the first time, and periodically thereafter..."
Have our home grown Englewood students been deprived of the privilege of taking honors classes in order to insure a bigger payday for a testing company? 

Believe me I did not like finding that the husband of one of the School Board Members is Chief Risk Officer and General Counsel for the College Board. 

This situation has the appearance of impropriety.

I am in favor of allowing ALL students equal access to AP courses. I am not in favor of forcing any
student to take an AP Honors course. I am totally not in favor of eliminating honors courses and replacing them with AP Honors Courses. The practice of forcing unsuspecting and ill prepared 9th graders into several AP classes is not a best practice.  I also understand the notion of setting the bar higher for ALL students.  When we don’t have the necessary supports in place to make sure students can be successful, we are ultimately doing a disservice to the students, their families and the entire educational system. 

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Additionally, AP Bio has had roughly a 60% passing rate nationally.  In Englewood, over the past 4 years (according to the September 2018 presentation to the Board of Education), the passing rate on the same test exam is roughly 36%.  Also from that presentation, the highest passing rate (47% passing) over that time was when the previous administration (those who had bogus tenure charges pressed upon them) devised best practices to aid in success. 

Some Private schools are actually getting rid of AP classes and some prestigious colleges no longer accept AP course credit.  Why?  It is puzzling as to why some Public Schools servicing largely low income, African American and Latino students are pressing for more AP Honors courses.
"...Some prestigious colleges have stopped giving academic credit for AP tests scores...Specifically, she says students lack skills in research, writing, and evidence-based analysis. Schneider says the general problem of college readiness “raises questions about whether the courses students took in high school, that might’ve been labeled AP or dual enrollment, were really providing students the preparation in writing and research that college itself will emphasize. Different institutions are making different judgments about that.”... "

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If that is not alarming enough, the current administration also modified the master schedule so that each class is 5 minutes shorter so that they could have a failed experience of a unit lunch period.  While 5 minutes may not seem like a lot, when you take it over a 180 day schedule, there are 900 less minutes of instructional time to complete the curriculum.  You would think that the administration would learn from this and go back to the previous schedule.  However, in their infinite wisdom, they decided to have TWO homeroom periods; one in the morning and one in the afternoon.  This is a way that “Genesis” may keep track of attendance!   Again, our students take the hit caused by mismanagement.  I have made lots of jokes about "Genesis", a computer software program being our Robot Attendance Officer. Well, Well....
"...experts say it's important for families to consider how colleges use such credits. Depending on your school of choice, your efforts might save thousands of dollars — or nothing.."
At a time when schools across the country are lengthening class periods, DMHS class periods have
Robert L. Kravitz
been shortened. When Teaneck High School went to block scheduling we were presented with what was called the "rainbow schedule". We actually experimented with several different schedules, each being assigned a different color. At the end of the experiment, teachers, students and administrators voted for the color they liked best. Everyone was afforded the privilege of participation. We chose a color and went to the block schedule. My classes grew from
45 minute to 90 minute blocks. Some classes were shorter than 90 minutes . Our Scheduler, a guidance counselor, worked out the schedule for the entire high school, by hand, on a "white board" attached to a wall in the Guidance Office.  I taught Dance and Choreography.  For the first time ever, I was able to teach a real wor
ld dance class in a public school. 

Englewood Public School District Board of Education
The Current Board of Education
When it is all said and done, our Superintendent recommended and our School Board voted to deprive Englewood students of the privilege of taking honors classes. Right now there is an 8th grade Science class at the Middle School that has a different substitute nearly every day. Now tell me, do you think the students in this class will be prepared to take AP Biology in the 9th Grade? Will these students be sufficiently prepared to take regular high school Biology in the 9th grade?

The Englewood School Board should overturn this decision immediately. 

The Principal at the High School should allow any child out of AP Honors who produces a letter from his/her parents giving them permission to leave the class. Contrary to what some people think
students do have rights under the Law and so do their parents. Students cannot be forced to take AP Honors courses. Why are our children being set up to fail?

Have these courses even passed the AP Course Audit

Monday, October 15, 2018

A Displeased Body of Students

The letter below arrived in my email a few days ago. I was aware that students in the Academy were being forced to take AP Biology regardless of their major. Students complained about this to the Board on several occasions. Silly me. I thought this meant Academy Students only. Wow! What next?


October 10, 2018

Good evening, below is one of the many things student would like to be addressed or put out there in any way shape or form. Thankyou!

: Recently, there has been a huge change within Dwight Morrow High School. Before elaborating I would like you to know the situation before these changes were made, students had the chance to enter AP or Honors classes. As of now all honors classes have been combined with AP, this is a huge jump especially if your coming from a regular class. Moving from Ex: Biology to AP chemistry. AP stands for Advanced Placement, the material in this class is college based. -Imagine this, one day your in a 9th grade chemistry class and the next your thrown into an entirely different subject with an entirely different criteria than you were aware of. All students within honor classes who now have AP were not notified of this change until the first day of school, many including myself are struggling to keep up. My question is why did you feel the need to combine two completely different courses? How did this benefit the students… other than lowering their gpa that is. Bring back honors.


A displeased body of students.