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Newsweek article on AP classes
Posted:
Apr 6, 1998 12:59 PM


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 collegeprep 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 wellprepared 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 mathusing community.
Dick  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 rpilgrim@ucsd.edu 



