January 28, 2012
CHS weighs AP exam credits
Bob Ellis/staff photographer
Elisabeth Sprague, a junior at Cortland High School, works on an acrylic painting of her sister Olivia on Thursday in her Advanced Placement studio art class taught by Robin Jackson.
Whether students should receive full credit for Advanced Placement courses if they do not take the AP final exam was a discussion topic for the city Board of Education this week.
The board talked about the issue during its Tuesday meeting but did not schedule any action to be taken. Any policy changes would not take effect until at least 2013-14, since the 2012-13 Cortland Junior-Senior High School course list is done.
Board members split over the topic. Some said the course should not receive the usual AP weighting in the student’s overall grade point average without the AP exam.
Others said it should, since proficiency can be shown throughout the semester, not just on a test.
AP courses are designed and managed by the College Board as courses that prepare a student better for college and to count as college credit, because of their rigor.
Students are expected to take the exam under the current setup.
Superintendent of Schools Larry Spring asked for the discussion so he could guide policy decisions, as the number of AP courses at the school has grown to 10.
Only two of them — U.S. history and U.S. government and politics — require the exam. Others “expect” students to take it and still others, such as calculus and statistics, “suggest” taking it.
The AP exam produced by the College Board costs $80 per student. The board discussed whether students from low-income families might not be able to afford it.
Spring gave board members an article about a study of AP courses and exams.
Board member Janet Griffin said the study found that the academic strength lay in the courses themselves, not the final exam. She said she favored not requiring the exams.
Later, Griffin noted the article said that a teacher in AP studio art could grade more accurately from a student’s required portfolio of five works than from a test.
Board member Melissa Davis-Howard said the district should steer as many students as possible to AP courses and not let family income level decide who enrolls.
Other board members agreed but said students should understand, before enrolling, how difficult the work in an AP course can be.
Board member John Natoli opposed allowing students to receive the full weight of the course credit if they skip the AP test.
An AP course is weighted as a 1.1 in a student’s GPA while an honors or accelerated course is weighted at 1.05 and a regular course at 1.0.
“I’ve seen students carry a 90 average through a course and then fail the Regents final,” said Natoli, who teaches math at Westhill High School in Syracuse.
Natoli questioned the use of the word “rigorous,” wanting a clear definition. Spring did not take a position and said he saw merits to all of the options.
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