Friday, September 15, 2006

Is lots of AP/IB a bad thing?

Here's an interesting article from the Washington Post that explores the issue of AP/IB overload in high-performing schools. It's probably worth reading if you have high school student at JIS.

A WaPo reader takes education reporter-extraordinaire Jay Matthews to task for glorifying hellish course loads that include 8 or 9 AP or IB courses in the 11th and 12th grades. And she points another finger of blame at "...high schools and colleges pushing every bright student toward a course load that is 75 to 80 percent AP," saying those educators are:
"...doing many bright students a disservice by pushing AP to such an extreme. These kids would do well in college anyway, and they are sacrificing their childhoods, which are so important, and are taught to obsess over individual achievement at an early age."
Matthews doesn't necessarily disagree with the reader, saying, "I think you are right to be concerned about some students taking more AP or International Baccalaureate (IB) courses than are good for them."

Matthews goes on to explain why too much emphasis on AP/IB -- at the expense of other activities and passions -- can actually make admission to Ivy Leagues and other upper-eschelon universities more difficult. He's interviewed boat-loads of high school counselors and college admissions officers, and he's discovered that:
If an admissions officer has one applicant who has taken nine AP tests and has the usual collection of class offices and clubs and sports teams, and another applicant with three AP scores and a collection of published poetry, the selective college admissions officer -- all other things being equal -- is going to take the poet every time. Interesting and unusual after-school passions are the gold standard of modern college admissions, so loading up too many AP courses can actually hurt you.
That's something to consider as you and your high school student sit down to create an educational plan for those 9th-to-12th-grade years. How many AP/IB classes are enough to demonstrate a solid ability to handle university-level classes, while at the same time allowing a kid to be a kid?

(In a related note, here's the website for the College Board's Advanced Placement International Diploma -- or APID -- program. It's something that JIS offers, in addition to the JIS high school diploma and the IB diploma. The APID requires students to score a 3 or above on at least four AP exams in several different subjects.)


At 1:03 PM, Blogger MKwik said...

Thanks Cheryl, very good article. I've been wondering about this exact issue, because I'm hoping that my kids will go to good universities in the US. It's good to know what matters and what matters more. It's good to know that universities are looking beyond academic credentials and looking at the more creative and involved child. On AP/IB however, I have a few more questions. I guess I could do the research, but I figure if you have the answers already, it will help save me sometime: (1) I didn't know that US universities also accept IB courses. Do the US universities weigh the AP courses and the IB courses differently? My understanding is that the AP courses go towards college credit. What do the IB courses do? Getting the IB diploma takes a lot of hard, intensive work. Is it worth it? (2) I didn't know AP courses would be accepted at other universities outside of the US. Do you know which ones do? Thanks so much!

At 8:11 PM, Blogger Cheryl van Tilburg said...

Hello mkwik! To be honest, my knowledge of the issue is pretty limited to Advanced Placement within the United States, where strong AP exam scores can equate not only to college credits, but also to acceptance to university in the first place.

Like you, I've heard that IB courses can (in some cases) count for university credit. But I profess no true knowledge on this topic. My kids, like yours, are still a few years away....Maybe another (more clueful) JIS Topics reader could explain how it works. (And in the meantime, I'll dig around for answers.)

You bring up a subject that's on many other parents' radar screens! I'm hopeful that groups such as the PTA and the administration could undertake a project that would give parents specific information on the ins-and-outs of high school course planning, the various diplomas options, and university admissions requirements both in the U.S. and other countries. (I've heard rumbles of activity around the campus....) And I'm hopeful that families with younger children could have access to this information as well. That would be great!

I'll keep you posted. Thanks so much for your comment.


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