Now that my oldest child has graduated and we received her AP exam scores yesterday, I have an update for everyone. It should remove all doubt from anybody's mind about the outstanding opportunity these courses represent for our college-bound students. Evansville's most recent data indicates that in 2010-2011, 65% of our students took the ACT. I believe one can safely presume that these kids plan to pursue some form of post-secondary education. Two-thirds of our student body expects to go to college or university. This is enormous and certainly should stifle those who dismiss our students as uninterested is such pursuits. At least I hope it does.
Our flagship University of Wisconsin at Madison is predicted to cost (all fees included) about $23,000 next year. That fact is overwhelming. When I consider that I graduated from a private college in 1980 with an (interest-free!) loan balance of only $10,000, I'm stunned nearly speechless. Those of you who know me realize that it takes an awful lot to render me silent. The last time I recall being speechless was when I found out that our former technology director stole from the district on my watch as board clerk. That was 3 or 4 years ago. Anyway, back to AP classes.
Sarah was eligible to take 6 AP exams: Biology, Calculus, Spanish, US History, English Language and Composition and English Literature and Composition. She opted out of the first three because these are subjects that really challenge her and she feels taking them another time in college won't hurt her. That doesn't mean that taking these classes was a waste of time. Learning to study to the level of rigor expected at university is an excellent experience to have in the safe and free environment of the public school system. Her passion is English Language, Literature and Composition and she loves History, so she decided to take those exams.
Each exam costs either $55 or $67, I can't remember which. So we paid somewhere between $165 and $201 for her to sit for these exams. Scores on AP exams are rated from 1-5. Universities traditionally accept scores of 3 or above for some kind of credit. Sarah scored a 3 or above on all three of the exams she took. I went to the UW website to find out what their policy is on awarding credit for AP exams and found out that she has earned 9 credits for her hard work. She did so well on both English exams that she is exempt from some introductory English class as well. I knew that this would help reduce the costs of her education, so I checked the website for how much they charge for tuition and fees are for 9 credits at UW. I discovered that my kid earned over $4000 with all her hard work. And that is using last year's fee structure, which we all know will increase next year. Considered as an investment, AP can't be beat. Where else in the world can you see a 20 fold return on your investment in four months? But the real benefit of AP, to which nobody can affix a price tag, is experience with college level rigor before you have to pay 10 grand a year just in tuition and fees. Many students in the Evansville School District have not been given the opportunity in the past to experience AP and honors classes because they were traditionally considered only for "the smart kids." That has left some very bright students completely unprepared for college. Their A game in Evansville became a C or D game in college, discouraging some so thoroughly that they quit. Our district is changing that, slowly and surely, with a plan to get every kid enrolled in at least one AP class.
Lack of AP experience is not the only problem facing Evansville students going to college. I have argued pointedly with the principal about the school effectively giving extra time to fix errors as being contraindicated since they won't have that chance in college. When you think about it, it's not even fair. Some kids may have time after school or during study halls and such, but some may not. I told him that as a parent anticipating forking out the big bucks for my kids to go to university, I expect him to structure the learning process, at least the last 2 years of it, similarly to the one they will see in college. His response was, "The goal should be increased learning, not adhering to some antiquated educational model because it's at university." We'll see what he's saying when his elementary school kids go to college for 50 grand a year apiece. I tell my kids to shoot for their best effort the first time. But given opportunities to correct errors simply allows for an "I can blow this off if I run out of time" attitude. Let's stop this nonsense and put everyone on a level playing field. And not by lowering each corner to the least common denominator either. Kids live up to or down to expectations. Please see the quote at the top of the blog. Rinse and repeat!