AP Scores Don't Necessarily Reflect Teacher's Skills

(By Julie Zhu -- Montgomery Blair High School)
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By Jay Mathews
Thursday, April 3, 2008

Dear Extra Credit:

I expect a few Advanced Placement teachers might take umbrage at your comment that a talented class that produces no AP scores above a 3 "is a glaring indicator that the teacher needs to be retrained or replaced." ["Race Can Be Another Hurdle to Quality Education," March 13].

I taught AP biology for 19 years in Prince George's County. Usually, I had 30 to 36 students in a 50-minute daily class. The material and labs can't be covered even in a double period. The College Board states that the prerequisites are a B in previous biology and successful completion of chemistry. I was called on the carpet for having the audacity to suggest that physics be a prerequisite or that it be taken concurrently, because bioenergetics requires a knowledge of physics. Also, students were required to take the exam.

I had years where most students had a 3, and some had a 4 and an occasional 5, and years when a 2 predominated on the 5-point exam. For 10 years in a row, none of my AP students had taken or were taking calculus.

So you would have me retrained or replaced because of those 3-and-below years? That's ideal, but let's be realistic. Where are these teachers? Teaching AP is hard work and requires experience and energy. I was tapped because I had coursework in molecular genetics and was an adjunct professor at Howard Community College, so I knew college biology. Not everyone does.

And now Superintendent John E. Deasy in Prince George's proposes there should be no prerequisites for any AP class in the county. So again, the numbers of students will go up, but I don't think the scores will.

-- Nancey Parker

Former Prince George's

AP teacher

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