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With All This Weight, What Student Needs an Anchor?

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Dear Extra Credit:

This is in response to the reader who questioned why more schools with block schedules don't have "anchor days" on Mondays, where students have every class. The short answer: My high-schooler can barely manage her backpack with the current block scheduling of about half of her classes each day. With seven classes in one day, she'd need a wheelbarrow!

This problem could be solved if each classroom had a set of textbooks, but I wouldn't hold my breath for that.

Andrea Rosenthal

Oak Hill

Other wise people have proposed that solution to the backpack crisis. Why hasn't it been done? Too expensive? Too weird? Any ideas?

Dear Extra Credit:

Regarding your column's recent discussion of English usage in speech, the most frequent misuse of "I" that can be heard on TV, especially by sportscasters, is "The teacher caught Joe and I cheating." And it appears in print, too, when quoting people. I wonder whether teachers ever correct this grammatical error. It almost seems as if the English language now accepts this misuse. Do you agree?

Betty Bowers

College Park

It is a living language. We might be moving toward a so-what attitude about I or me. But in the meantime, it is fun to yell corrections at the television screen.

Dear Extra Credit:

Maria Glod's May 6 article on dual enrollment ["College-School Partnerships Offer Head Start on Higher Education"] made me think that you might enjoy learning about parents who have begun to think outside the box when it comes to educating their kids.

Our oldest son finished eighth grade last June in Prince William County. During that year, he began to have what we thought were indifferent or apathetic feelings about school. He started mentioning that he would love to study somewhere different than a regular high school. We took him at his word, and my husband researched study-abroad programs for students that age.

That search led us to a program that took 14-year-olds and allowed them to live with host families and study intensive Spanish. Our son lived for 25 weeks in two cities in Spain from September to April. He studied the language and culture and has been certified bilingual.

I can't begin to tell you how his self-confidence and maturity have soared. Many people thought we were crazy for sending away a boy that young to live with strangers, but my husband escorted him on both trips (he came home for winter break) so that he could have a point of reference and know the layout of the cities and home environment. It was probably one of the best opportunities that we will ever be able to give our child. He is most appreciative to have had it.

Suzanne Edwards

Prince William County

Thanks for the encouraging story of parents listening to their child and responding to the challenge. I think most of our kids are ready to learn more than we teach them.

Dear Extra Credit:

Regarding your reasoning on the AP tests, that taking them improves college performance, I bet that one can just as likely make a correlation between what students wear in high school and how well they do in college. This doesn't mean that dressing well is the cause of their good grades. It is just as likely that those who take AP courses are the better and/or smarter students and would do better in college than those who don't take AP courses. Even if the student is not a top achiever in high school, willingness to take AP courses shows that the student has drive and ambition and thus has a better chance of making it through college than one who might be smarter but doesn't care.

Nothing you have ever written about AP courses has shown me otherwise. The only proof would be a controlled trial where students are randomly assigned to AP or not and then are followed through college to see how they do.

On a related note, your column last year chiding students for not taking the AP exam after taking the course caused my daughter to go ballistic. I encouraged her to write you, but she didn't, so I am sharing her viewpoint with you here. My daughter did not take the AP Psychology exam because AP credit was not accepted for that course at the college she was planning to attend the next fall. She made the decision that it was a waste of our money and her time when she had already taken six AP tests and was going to take three others that spring. Why should any senior take the AP exam knowing that the college will not give credit for it? After all, even you have to admit that it is the coursework that is the benefit to the student, not a three-hour exam.

Melissa Yorks

Gaithersburg

A randomized test of the effect of AP test-taking (remember, the data show that just taking the course does not make a difference) would be interesting, but I would oppose telling students who applied to take AP courses that they couldn't do so. Character is important, but the survey showing that low-scoring students who take AP tests do better in college than low-scoring students who do not take the tests makes it harder to accept your view that AP participation has no effect.

As for your daughter's decision, it makes sense to me. My daughter also chose not to take an AP test after taking several others. The students I was chiding, if I remember correctly, did not take any AP exams. That's bad. Hundreds of AP teachers over the years have shown me how the exam helps motivate teacher and students to take the course seriously and provides good practice for long and difficult final exams in college. Also, you can't get college credit unless you take the AP exam. If you are taking some, that's fine. You don't have to take all.

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 e-mail extracredit@washpost.com.

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