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Topic: Newsweek article on AP classes
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by way of Eric Sasson

Posts: 28
Registered: 12/4/04
Newsweek article on AP classes
Posted: Apr 6, 1998 12:59 PM
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If a student hopes to be accepted at many of the highly competitive
universities today, AP calculus is post facto a requirement. In the UC
system, we require three years of college-prep math, however 90+% of
entrants have 4 years. You also get extra points toward acceptance for each
AP course taken - even if you don't take the AP test or take it and get
less than 3. My daughter works in admissions and tells me that you are
seriously hurting your chances of admission to the top 3 UC campuses if you
don't have AP calculus!

I have followed up on the performance of students presenting AP calculus
scores here in the next course since 1990. Based on this data and annual
followups, I found that students presenting a 4 or 5 on the AB test
typically did well (B- or better) in our 2nd quarter calculus course. A 3
on the AB was not a clear indicator so we recommend the student retake the
1st quarter calculus although the systemwide policy is to give 4 units
credit. We will give additional credit for the course (i.e. the student has
4 units elective credit). A 1 or 2 is not acceptable for credit or advanced
standing. We do, however, accept a 2 as evidence of readiness to begin the
first quarter course. We treat the BC score similarly - 4 or 5 goes into
3rd quarter, 3 advised to repeat 2nd quarter course, 1 or 2 as meaningless.
This is based on evidence, not "Common Wisdom".

Now for the CW: Students taking "calculus" in high school but with no AP
test, or college credit, standard of measure do very mixed quality work in
their first course. Many of these students (100 or so in the fall) do not
qualify for calculus on our placement test and end up in precalculus. It is
amazing what they *don't* know. I do a voluntary exit interview (for extra
points) for some of the precalculus classes and find that many of these
students were put into the high school calculus class 1)to have enough
students to hold the class, or 2)there is no other class for them to take
once they finished precalc, or 3)"just do what you can, you will take
calculus again in college." The first reason stems from measures like the
Newsweek article, the second from high schools lacking enough resources to
offer a variety of quality courses, the third from misguided advising.

With regard to Ralph's comments, they are very typical of the math
faculty's perceptions. I just indirectly received an inquiry from AP
regarding a faculty comment to the effect that AP math courses and scores
were worthless in preparing and measuring student achievement in calculus -
Is this true at UCSD? Also, we are all very naive about what the admissions
process really entails. For years, I have replied to hs math teachers that
if you can't offer a good AP, or college credit, calculus course to
well-prepared students then don't bother. Now my daughter informs me that
such advice amounts to one strike against a student's admission!

I am not sure that the present AP setup as it is used for college
admissions truly serves the needs of students, parents and the math-using

oneoftheSweets wrote: (and a lot of replies, esp. from Ralph Raimi)
* I have a particular interest in that I have a senior who is just about to
* take the AP test (for the sum of $74.00!!). Now, my question is -- all the
* colleges we visited stated that they place heavy emphasis on AP and Honors
* classes...but what happens when you don't get a good enough score to get
* the AP credit? What if you don't bother to take the AP test? I didn't
* realize until my son started taking AP classes that they were designed to
* "teach to the test". I thought that was what we were not supposed to do?!
* My other question is that not all students desire to take nor could they
* succeed at taking AP calculus - what happens to them? Do colleges penalize
* you when you don't take those courses even if they are offered at your high
* school. I'm not sure "anybody" can take those courses at our high school.
* What about the average student? Can he/she get into a college without all
* these accelerated classes?
* Vicki

Richard Pilgrim
Mathematics Testing and Placement #0423
University of California, San Diego
9500 Gilman Drive
La Jolla, CA 92093

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