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Open-Door Policy for AP, IB: The Pros and the Cons

Thursday, June 28, 2007

We have asked readers, particularly students, what they thought about opening Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate and Cambridge courses to all who want to take them. Two students who will be seniors at Oakton High School had very different and interesting views:

Dear Extra Credit:

It is not a good idea for schools to disregard educational records and to open AP, IB or Cambridge courses to any student willing to do the hard work. What benefits do AP courses bring? Obviously, they prepare students for college, look great on college applications and allow students to knock off college credits if they pass the AP exams.

However, how could students who had been struggling to make decent grades in regular classes find solace in an AP class? They cannot. Such students would shrivel up and pray to a non-responsive God for a remedy. The only remedy would be to offer AP courses solely to the students who possess the capacity to excel in them. I believe that only those students with GPAs of 3.5 and above should be allowed to engage in the AP program. A minimum GPA requirement for AP classes would inspire students to maintain higher grades. Many smart students have the mind-set that they can simply slack off during their first two years of high school prior to displaying their capacity to excel in AP classes as upperclassmen. This mind-set would be altered if a 3.5 GPA would be required for admission into the elite AP program.

Students who cannot excel in AP classes become extremely stressed, and their entire education becomes a chore rather than an enlightened learning experience. They normally receive D's or F's for their final grades, and they do not pass the AP tests. Their AP experiences fall nothing short of an academic nightmare. Had they been excluded from participating in the AP program, most would continue earning decent grades and save themselves from the shock of the AP curriculum.

Open-door AP classes have certainly made my high school worse. Five students whom I know are failing their AP classes. Their states of mind exemplify those who are not capable of excelling as AP students. One friend of mine had earned a 3.0 GPA last year. Yet the stress of three AP classes has become overwhelming, and her GPA has plummeted to a 2.0. She has lost all of her previous educational enthusiasm, which has unfortunately been replaced with confusion, hopelessness and depression. How can we help these students who are searching for a new beginning? It is too late now. Yet we can prevent students from being devoured by unrelenting AP courses by eliminating the open-door policy.

Danny Raikin

Herndon

Dear Extra Credit:

I have come to realize that in the event of an opportunity, it is rather foolish to neglect it. AP, IB and other forms of advanced learning are indeed an opportunity for an individual to dedicate himself or herself to higher studies.

These classes are very difficult and require a thorough understanding of the subject. However, they are never mandatory and often are based on the decision of the individual. Since these classes are optional, it allows students to challenge themselves or to further their study in a particular area of interest. It would be wrong, and rather cruel, to have restrictions on a student's ambition.

I have always had an aptitude for math and science, yet I didn't perform very well in school due to my laziness and lack of interest freshman year. During my sophomore year, I enrolled in AP computer science. I was the only sophomore among many seniors and some juniors. I found myself struggling, but I decided to try harder. After a couple of arduous weeks, I understood all the concepts.

During the latter part of the year, I had become a much better student in both computer science and school. It was then that I realized people can achieve great things if they challenge themselves. I was excelling in math, chemistry, computer science and other classes, as well. If AP classes can turn a mediocre student such as me into one of the "smart" people, then I absolutely believe it can work for anyone.

How unfair would it be for students if schools were to institute classes only for a select few "intellectuals"? Although now I am performing quite well, I was not doing so well two years ago. In fact, I didn't think I would be taking three AP classes now. Not only do advanced studies allow students to discover themselves, but such programs also benefit the school by raising the level of education.

Open door is and will be the best policy.

Jyotiska Biswas

Herndon

I think both of you argued your cases well. But as regular readers know, I am on Jyotiska Biswas's side. I hope Danny Raikin will consider the maturity factor, as raised by Biswas. Many students start high school with mediocre skills and little interest in their studies, but as they get older they do better and develop a desire to take AP to prepare for college. Should they be barred because of their low GPAs in ninth and 10th grade? Michael Jordan did not make his high school varsity basketball team as a sophomore, but when he got older and better, his coach welcomed him. People change, particularly at your age. And those who are straining too much in an AP class might think of switching to another class. There are plenty that are not nearly as demanding.

Have a good summer. Extra Credit is going on vacation and will be back Aug. 16.

Extra Credit may be on summer break, but keep the letters coming, because Extra Credit will need something to give it a start in August. Send comments and 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 e-mailextracredit@washpost.com.

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