The Fake Newsweek Rankings…are really fake now

Every year, we’re treated to a myriad of press releases from this school or that school being number one, according to Newsweek Magazine. They’re the ones that come out with a silly list annually touting who are the best high schools in the county, based solely on how many students enroll in Advanced Placement courses.

GCS is no exception.

Now, we learn that those rankings really may not mean much; in fact, we can now confirm  what was released today from ETS and the College Board, who sponsor the AP programs and exams,  contradict the Newsweek rankings. Their rankings never tout how many earn a passing score of “3” or better.

News & Record:

Of all the students who graduated from North Carolina high schools in 2007, 18.5 percent earned a passing grade on at least one Advanced Placement exam.

The local statistics are above the national average of 15 percent, according to a report released this morning by the College Board, which oversees the college-level course program.

Okay…but the kicker:

 Locally, some 8,300 Guilford high school students took Advanced Placement exams in 2007. That number has been steadily increasing over the last few years, up from about 6,900 students in 2004.

Of all the Guilford students who took that exam last year, less than half received a score of 3 or better, a grade often necessary to earn college credit for the course. The College Board considers grades of 3 or better predictive of success in college.

Pow…right in the kissa!

Less than half…I can’t wait to see downtown explain this one.

E.C. )


18 Responses

  1. Perhaps 8,300 students shouldn’t be enrolled in AP courses. Whatever measuring tool that considers the absolute number of AP enrollees as some sort of cap feather is simply wrong.

    Not every child should go to college; that’s why we have FINE 2-year programs and tech prep courses of study. Not every student should take an AP course and AP test.

    I wonder what the AP teachers think.

  2. Hey, Terry Grier said he has tried to expand the AP programs in Guilford County to make the courses available for all prepared students, not just a few elite. So, Terry feels that students that are academically advanced are the “few elite”. Interesting view from an educator.

    Erik, perhaps you can explain to me some of these numbers:

    “The local statistics are above the national average of 15 percent, according to a report released this morning by the College Board, which oversees the college-level course program.”

    “Of all the Guilford students who took that exam last year, less than half received a score of 3 or better, a grade often necessary to earn college credit for the course.”

    So, GCS students are over 15%, and less than 50%. That’s a big range. Am I missing something here? What were the local stats?

  3. You may be able to glean some data from a prior ChalkBoard thread: “Here’s some AP data for you” (

  4. And still we do not address who’s paying for 8,000+ kids to sit for these exams! It’s insane! I believe each test cost $90 to take. Also, imagine the class: you have the “few elite” as Mr. San Diego states, then you have the middle of the road students, then you have those that were coerced into being in the class–how does that work? Tell me how the teacher (who may or may not be trained in teaching AP courses) is supposed to teach that class? It cannot be done adequately, that’s the answer. So another question is, would you have MORE passing with a “3” or better if you took the lowest learners out? (those kids that probably don’t want to be there anyway). Of course Mr. San Diego would hate to miss out on the Newsweek Fake Rankings but to really place kids appropriately in these classes is the answer. Also, I firmly believe the way to filter this is to make students who fare less than a “3” responsible for the test fee. It makes sense–If you want to take an AP course, you study hard to make a 3 or better or hand over the moola. Again a no brainer that would make Deena just cringe because someway somehow this will mean I’m a racist for suggesting it.

  5. Teacher,

    Another alternative would be to offer the same class without requiring the test. You, in theory, would still expose the kids to a rigorous academic course but not have the fee and pressure. Of course, without requiring the test, you couldn’t call it an AP class and wkids would not be eligible for college credit.

  6. I’ve reviewed these links, but I still can’t reconcile in my mind exactly what the local results look like compared to NC and National. Are we doing significantly better than NC and National in passed AP tests? I see a lot of data, but I don;t see much information.

  7. This discussion brings a question to my mind regarding what is the purpose of having AP classes? Who is the target for AP classes and tests? I thought that AP was implemented to bring rigor to the high school curriculum that didn’t exist in the misnamed “College Prep” classes. So, if we are going to put everyone in an AP class then what’s the point? Why don’t we just increase the rigor in the regular CP classes, and students will not have to take the AP test, and only the ones that are serious about pursuing college can take the AP classes and tests. I think that the answer is that path is not properly politically correct enough for what passes for public education.

    Everyone should realize that AP classes require a very high level of commitment from the student, that many students are willing to commit to doing. And for those that do commit and succeed, the rewards are there.

  8. I can’t agree more Stormy and jwg.

    The problem is, the system needs/wants to make it look like EVERYONE is excelling. The goal with Guilford County is to close the “achievement gap”. It’s a shame but the goal is not to help the current high achievers excell, nor help the low achievers. It’s smoke and mirrors to make it look as if the bottom has come up.

    I agree we need to find ways to help the lowest achievers, but I know it’s not by placing them in classes over their head. Until we can get the priorities straight in this county, the goal will be the “gap” and not the actual instruction.

  9. Teacher,

    Equal outcomes should never be the objective of a successful education system, but that is what public education is about these days, including and especially in GCS. They need to adopt the motto of the Army “Be all you can be”.

  10. Stormy wrote, “This discussion brings a question to my mind regarding what is the purpose of having AP classes? Who is the target for AP classes and tests?”

    AP tests have a purpose. They give college-bound students college credit and that’s a great thing. To be a college freshman is hard enough but if you go in with several college credits, you can perhaps take a lighter load one semester and make the transition to college easier. There are good reasons for AP courses.

    I just can’t justify measuring success on the absolute number of students taking an AP test. College-bound students are really the only students for whom these tests have utilitarian meaning. If there’s a social or self-perception benefit of sitting for an AP exam, I’d like to know more about it.

  11. sue,

    I have to disagree with you to a small degree. According to College Board:

    “AP can change your life. Through college-level AP courses, you enter a universe of knowledge that might otherwise remain unexplored in high school; through AP Exams, you have the opportunity to earn credit or advanced standing at most of the nation’s colleges and universities.”

    So, according to College Board, AP courses are designed to:

    Gain the Edge in College Preparation

    * Get a head start on college-level work.
    * Improve your writing skills and sharpen your problem-solving techniques.
    * Develop the study habits necessary for tackling rigorous course work.

    Stand Out in the College Admissions Process

    * Demonstrate your maturity and readiness for college.
    * Show your willingness to push yourself to the limit.
    * Emphasize your commitment to academic excellence.

    Broaden Your Intellectual Horizons

    * Explore the world from a variety of perspectives, most importantly your own.
    * Study subjects in greater depth and detail.
    * Assume the responsibility of reasoning, analyzing, and understanding for yourself.

    AP tests are a validation of the learning process. It’s really more of a by-product of the process that students get college credit. Some universities do not even recognize the test unless a 4 or 5 is scored, and some elite schools may not even give you that credit at all. So, high school students should enter an AP class with the understanding that they are being committed to a stronger rigor in that subject than they would normally experience in high school. If a student enters an AP course, they should only do so after making the commitment to work very hard and be challenged. I feel that many of these students are being pushed into the AP program for the sole purpose of building the superintendent’s resume, and in the case of GCS, it achieved the objective, and the superintendent got his promotion. And, for that, Guilford County taxpayers paid $750,000 for AP tests last year. Another perk for Terry Grier.

  12. I am not against AP courses. In fact, I am pleased that GCS offers AP courses for those that can handle them; however, I know that these classes are being scheduled for those that either can not handle them and/or do not want to take them. Students are finding themselves in these classes (even when not requested) and some are finding it very difficult to get out of them — even if they are failing them. My high school student has even admitted that many students schedule AP classes because they don’t want their peers to think they are “stupid” because they are taking honors or CP classes. That is wrong. Why isn’t there a ‘screening’ process for these classes? Why put the student in the class only to set them up for failure? I suspect it is to make GCS look like it is doing better in education than it really is — the Newsweek ratings do not take into account how many students actually PASS the class/test.

    In other states AP classes are offered and the students are responsible for taking the exams — they pay for them. My oldest attends college out-of-state, and reports that many peers took AP courses, yet did not take the exams — no, they did not get college credit, but they did get the exposure. Please also note that not every AP course has a college or major equivalent, even if the student made a 4 or 5 on the exam.

    GCS needs to re-think the way it conducts AP courses. They are wonderful courses for those students who need/want/can handle the challenge, but placing students in these courses only to make the district look good in polls or on resumes is wrong and I suspect this push for AP is just that — a resume and Public Relations booster (and it’s not the students’ resumes that I’m talking about)

  13. It strikes me as there may be a “happy medium” here.

    I don’t doubt that too few kids were invited into AP classes in the past. These courses should have been opened up to more students. Even if all do not earn a passing grade on the AP exam, there still is value in challenging yourself with college-level material. I say the benefit of the doubt should fall on the side of including a student, rather than keeping him or her out.

    On the other hand, from what I’m reading, it sounds like the AP floodgates have been opened to just about any and all students. This includes students who 1. Aren’t anywhere near ready for AP work and 2. Have no interest in being in being in an AP classroom.

    Clearly, this could have a detrimental impact on the students who really want to be there, if teachers are spending all of their time dealing with those unprepared and/or disinterested students.

    Bottom line: It sounds like expanding AP was a good idea, but at its current levels, it’s largely just a resume and public relations booster for our outgoing superintendent, as Mom23 says. AP classes are important and need to be widely available, but I’m not sure that sheer volume of enrollment is an indicator of success.

  14. just saying,

    If GCS is really serious about this whole ting, they could accomplish the same thing for students by increasing the curriculum rigor in the CP and Honors classes. They can provide the challenge and exposure to college-level work right there in CP and Honors classes, if that is really what is desired. If a student really wants to earn college credits, then let them enroll in AP classes and take the test, that they paid for, just like in most every other district. If a student takes the enhanced CP or Honors course, and they feel ready, then they can always take the AP test, at their option. Let’s get this issue back into perspective and out of the public relations and resume-building realm. In other words, let’s put AP back in the role for which it was intended.

  15. Stormy: “Be all that you can be”.

    Spot on, friend.

    Nothing else matters.

  16. While we re at it we should check the passing rate for the IB program. I happen to know that kids at High Point Central who are in the IB program take the AP test too even though the IB curriculum is different.
    Whats up with that?

    I know parents with kids at Grimsley and Central taking the IB program and they both seem to have really poor teachers there. In one case at Central they have no teacher for one of the subjects and the kids are teaching themselves.

    My daughter goes to Southwest and I know that only smart kids are taking AP classes with her. I also am not aware of my daughter or her friends being pressured to take the AP. My daughter said that some kids just cant be bothered with the final exam and thats just the way it is. They do it because of the weighted GPA.

  17. I still dont understand the huff and puff here. Taking AP classes is your chance to have your kids stretched. On the other hand Middle school is a disaster. Its three years of nothing. That is what we should be arguing about! We have the rigor in HS with AP, dont campaign against it and turn it into what we have in our middle schools. CP, Honors and AP are clear examples of differentiated curricluum. We just dont have that in middle school. Everyone is jumbled together except for a few that are in advanced math and Language Arts. The majority are taught to the lowest common denominator which is sometimes someone that cant read at grade level. Your child can be moderate Al and get lost in three years of NADA.

    Maybe thats the reason we pass less than 50% AP.

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