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My first (and last) AP class

May 11, 2012 pm31 11:37 pm

I made it through 14 years teaching without dealing with Advanced Placement. My first five, at Columbus, no way was I getting near even Course III (sort of Algebra 2 + Trig). And my last ten, I didn’t want AP Calculus, even though, had I requested it, I should have, probably would have, gotten it.

But this year I asked, and I got it, and, oh, boy.

I resented the dozens of small ways the College Board impinged on the course. I resented the test prep, even as I minimized it (two weeks, at the end. One prep book that we rarely referred to). I resented the weirdness of some of the word problems. I resented the calculator, and the problems written for Texas Instruments.

I resented that my talents were not pulled into play in the way I like them to be. Those students who were well-prepared, they could learn it all from the book (and on some topics, the book may have been a better resource for those students than my class). Those students who weren’t ready… how much precalc, how much trig, how much algebra 2 could I work in?  A lot.

Without the exam, I could have taught more, and taught better. I would have selected better topics, more depth, fewer odd tangents.

But most of all, I resented being part of the machine, the machine that boils kids down to bubbles. The machine that ignores learning and produces a score, just a number. The machine that cannot celebrate success, cannot measure progress, cannot differentiate a lazy bright student’s embarrassing A- from a hard-worker  well earned C+. The machine that cannot see the individual students, nor the goals of the course, nor the beauty of the mathematics.

I began to feel that teaching this course, attached to the testers’ own company, was doing violence to my own beliefs.

In April I turned in my preference sheet without AP Calculus. I felt better.

And Wednesday the exam happened. Done. In my freshmen classes I felt giddy.

I do want to know what scores the calculus kids got. That’s the monster, the machine, beckoning. But I am confident that the scores are fine. And that once I check them in July, I won’t look back. I might try calculus again. In college. Or without the exam. But my only AP class has passed the test, and I couldn’t be happier.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. May 12, 2012 am31 5:32 am 5:32 am

    What an interesting view. In history, AP classes and tests offer hope of actually getting to history instead of unworkable and often silly state standards.

    Ultimately I think it comes down to whether we can teach the students we have, tailoring the course to what they need to have to advance. Any one-size-fits-most course will do damage to that best form of teaching.

    • May 14, 2012 pm31 8:43 pm 8:43 pm

      For me, the association with any testing was in and of itself, creepy.

      New york’s math standards, are, of course, horrid. But it’s easy to teach way over them (for me, with my students). No way to do the same with AP.

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