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Finding Flaws in Push for Phonics

This is a fascinating topic, and I welcome thoughts from anyone who understands these distinctions and the research.

Making Sense of AP Rating

Dear Extra Credit:

I appreciate your efforts to recognize the efforts of Fairfax County educators to improve the achievements of all students in the Jan. 5 Extra Credit column ["Beyond the Challenge Index: A Tale of Great Achievement."]

Something in your article, however, needs clarification as it tends to diminish the legitimacy of your efforts to applaud the work at some seemingly underachieving (by Fairfax County standards) schools.

Specifically, you define the equity and excellence rating as follows: "The rating is designed to measure both the level of participation in Advanced Placement tests at each school, which is what the Challenge Index does, and how well its students are doing on the tests. It reports the percentage of all graduating seniors, including the many who never took an AP course or test, who have gotten at least one passing grade on one AP test sometime during their high school career."

Please explain how a student who never took an AP test could have gotten at least one passing grade on one AP test sometime during his or her high school career.

John A. Del Buono


Oops. My clumsy writing has hurt me again. If you remove the appositive clause, which my fourth-grade teacher Mrs. Keller said was the way to analyze this sentence, you will see that I am saying the equity and excellence rating gives the percentage of all graduating seniors who have gotten at least one 3 grade. I stuck in the appositive clause, beginning with "including," in an attempt to make it clear that this was very different from the usual way AP is measured -- the percentage of all tests with scores of 3 and above.

Many schools that measure themselves that way look good, with percentages in the 90s, but that is just a percentage of the few tests taken by the few A students they allow to take the classes.

I was trying to say that the equity and excellence rating is an improvement because its percentage represents every student in the senior class, including the many who, in most districts but thankfully not in Fairfax County, are told they can't take the AP classes and tests they want to take because they are not good enough for AP.

Please send your questions, along with your name, e-mail or postal address and telephone number to Extra Credit, The Washington Post, 526 King St., Suite 515, Alexandria, Va. 22314. Or

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