Will other colleges follow Dartmouth’s plan to end AP credit for exams?

Dartmouth’s game change for Class of 2018

It was reported this week that Dartmouth College plans to end its practice of allowing students to use Advanced Placement exams for college credit.  It was not an overnight decision.  Apparently the institution had been contemplating this change for almost ten years, and it will become effective with the class of 2018. 

Will other institutions follow Dartmouth?  That’s probably the bigger concern right now for high schools and their constituents, such as students, parents, and AP teachers, not to mention the College Board. 

Dartmouth questions the rigor of the AP program compared to classes taught by their professors.  They are not disputing the value AP classes can offer high school students as an introduction to the college curriculum, or its relevance as an academic motivator for the unassuming and “late-bloomers.”  One perspective is that perhaps Dartmouth is concerned with what’s in the best interest of the collegian to maximize college success.  It is difficult to excel at higher levels of curriculum if the objectives have not been met in preliminary courses.

High schools experience this challenge, also, with students who are not equipped with the necessary foundation, from their earlier education, that promotes academic success.  Many will advance to math, science, and foreign language placement levels without adequate preparation; and unfortunately, face demands that produce unfavorable grades. 

Was I surprised with this news; not really.  I was a school counselor for thirty years and was the school’s AP Coordinator for eighteen.  Even though I supported a student’s desire to take AP classes, I never misled students as a counselor, or AP Coordinator, to believe that their exam scores, particularly 3-5, would guarantee college credits.  They were always advised to consult with each college for confirmation; in other words, never assume anything.  It was also written in my AP registration packet.

During the 80’s and 90’s, there was silent talk among some counselors and admissions representatives that not all colleges accepted AP scores for credit; that’s how I knew.  There was no published list but we knew “unofficially” the target institutions.  This didn’t stop students from taking AP courses, because they were motivated and wanted the rigor of the curriculum; desired a particular teacher who stimulated the class with content and effective strategies; and taking the course at a local community college was not always an option. 

Fast-forward to the 2000 era, and the nation’s perspective of our educational system puzzled many people.  Just as high schools were concerned about the proficiency level of its new arrivals, colleges were expressing the same needs.  Some college professors felt the collegians in their classes, who had advanced due to AP credits, were not adequately prepared.  You may be surprised to know that some parents felt the same; especially, when they saw the first semester college grades.  This trickled through many channels, and thus gave birth to AP audits for high school teachers.  The College Board organized the process and AP teachers had to demonstrate their proficiency through curriculum development and other factors.  Some experienced teachers, even in progressive systems, were surprised when their submission was rejected.  The AP audit allowed the College Board, and high schools, to comply with colleges’ expectations. 

After the audit, it was noticed that not all colleges automatically awarded credit for scores of 3 and 4; only for a five.  It could vary contingent on the score earned, the major, and the institution’s selective status.  One of my favorite college resources stopped publishing it, because they said it was too difficult to maintain accurate information. 

Only time will tell if Dartmouth’s decision will persuade other institutions to do the same.  They all march to a different drummer and whether or not you agree or disagree, it is their choice.  Recently, several colleges have reduced their tuition, or frozen it.  Has everyone jumped on the band wagon?  Not yet, we just have to wait and see.

“Lady Gaga helps teens at 2013 concerts”

How many Lady Gaga fans are in the house?  Even though I have never attended a Gaga concert, I am not ashamed to admit I was always dancing (and actually still do) to her 2008 hit, “Just Dance.”  When my 1 ½ year-old grandson would say, “Dance,” that meant he wanted to hear Lady Gaga sing her song, so he could show us his latest moves.

I know she can be somewhat eccentric in her taste, but when you see high school students, these days, who isn’t?  And although Lady Gaga and I may not agree on everything, which is fine, I am glad to know we both agree on reaching out to adolescents in need.  Many young people are hurting and do not know where to access help.  And even when they know where to get the help, they are not always comfortable seeking it.

As the media has published, “Lady Gaga Bringing Teen Counseling Service on the Road,” her fans can benefit from her music as well as pursue supportive interventions to help with adolescent challenges.  I recently read about her announcement in one of my professional counseling publications, alerting mental health specialists about her mission.

 According to December 30th Rolling Stones Music, The pop star announced Saturday she will be offering free counseling before shows on her Born This Way Ball tour in 2013. Mental health professionals will staff the BornBrave Bus, where fans can take advantage of various forms of therapy as well as food, games and music.” 

Lady Gaga hopes teens in need will take advantage of the service, as an initial step in pursuing help.  Obviously, their problems will not be completely resolved with a one night visit to the BornBrave Bus, but it is a start.  Many teens consider counseling to be nonproductive, due to lack of commitment on their part (or parents), difficulty establishing rapport with the provider, financial limitations, and harassment from peers.  I applaud

“Lady Gaga helps teens at 2013 concerts”

 Lady Gaga’s creative approach in reaching out to her young constituents.

By the way, this is not her first effort to help teens.  Earlier she launched the Born This Way Foundation to address bullying and abandonment issues.

“Do all high school seniors earn their diploma?”

Most schools are approaching, if not already, the second semester of the 2012-13 calendar year.  Seniors and their parents are anxiously anticipating the milestone and celebration of May/June graduation.  It would be wise, NOW, to make sure all graduation requirements will be fulfilled, so there will be no surprises in a couple of months, when it will be too late to rectify.

OR, will it be too late?  Do all high school graduates really fulfill the requirements that warrant a diploma?  The majority of the audience at a graduation ceremony assumes that as seniors march in with smiling faces, wearing their traditional uniform (cap/gown/tassel), all have met the minimum requirements for the highly anticipated diploma.  This document is supposedly evidence of the accomplishment, but is this true for everyone? 

Prior to the distribution of the diplomas, by an entourage of school and district dignitaries, the principal reads a script which states, in so many words, that the seniors have met the minimum state and district 

Do all high school seniors earn their diploma?

requirements that earns them the diploma.  But the question is, did EVERYONE do this to deserve a diploma at the ceremony?  What do you think, and is it fair that all graduates receive this accolade, when actually, less than 100% deserve it?  Of course the audience assumes all the seniors respectfully earned their diploma, why else would they be there, but is this a “best practice” in education?  Is it misrepresentation of a graduating class?  And more importantly, does it help a senior by embellishing a school record or fulfillment of graduation obligations, for the future? Many assume future challenges will be “fixed” by someone, just like at graduation.

What pressures a school to become vulnerable to this misdeed?  We all know the emphasis placed on a school’s graduation rate, which is a necessary goal.  However, for the integrity of the school or district to be respected, these statistics should be accurate, not to mention honestly earned.  Can a student really earn 40 community service hours in less than 24 hours?  How many college prep math classes, which have prerequisites, can be passed in one semester?  How does a student pass a class for the semester, with one day of attendance? 

Some students and parents get so caught up in the aura of the ceremony, they fail to consider future implications.  Was this road to graduation in the best interest of the student?  Is “enabling” a student more effective than holding one accountable, for future success? 

Some districts have provisions for questionable graduates to help them fulfill subject requirements.  Evening and Saturday school classes can be a last minute ditch for seniors who didn’t make up credits in summer school, or to get a last chance to pass first semester failures, for a May/June graduation.  Credit recovery, a more recent concept is also an option.  In some districts, credit recovery can be an online course taken for several weeks.  Another option requires a student to repeat specified classwork, not always online, that resulted in failure, with the assistance of a school appointed coordinator who works collaboratively with the teacher.  As obvious in terminology, the course taken for credit recovery must be a class previously failed.  It cannot be used for a class, not taken, but required for graduation.  This is why it is imperative to review graduation requirements ASAP.

Seniors should check their second semester schedule to be sure all requirements have been earned, or will be fulfilled by the end of the term.  If not, immediately contact your school counselor.  Make it YOUR responsibility to not only review your course obligations, but also include community service, state/local tests, and other requirements.  Hopefully you did this at the beginning of the school year and this will be your final check.  Remember, you are the prospective graduate, not your counselor.  Now is the time to learn that you must take responsibility for your destiny; don’t rely on others.  When you matriculate to college, you will understand the significance of my statement.

As you sit with your classmates at graduation, make sure no one is looking at you thinking, “Did you earn your high school diploma?  Do you deserve to be here with the rest of us?”  Graduation is an important milestone that should be earned by all.

2013 New Year’s Resolution: EXERCISE

Exercise for a healthier brain

No, you are not in the wrong section.  An important resolution that most often gets omitted in the academic world is the motivation to exercise.  A limp body, as in a flower, lacks firmness, flexibility, stability, and a desire to be cooperative.

Research has shown that an active brain has adequate oxygen flow and is fed appropriate nutrients. We all know “exercise haters” and people who feed their bodies trash, and yet have high IQ’s; may even ace the SAT or ACT.  But why would you take the chance of limiting your brain potential by participating in those less-than-desirable habits?

If you already engage in an exercise routine, congratulations!  If you have a friend who needs encouragement, offer support to get started.  It can be difficult for some first-timers to take the initiative for exercise, which is why group programs can be an asset for many people.

If going solo is your style, that’s fine; just be disciplined.  My routine for many years has been to exercise in the morning, at home, in my workout room.  When the weather is cooperative, I might walk.  The AM is my preference because I know it will get done before other distractions cause conflicts.  My tennis is scheduled in the evening or weekend mornings.  Many people say they will not stick to a routine, if they don’t have a support group; therefore, select the method that will produce positive results.

In high school, there are many opportunities to get active.  Consider participating on a team, if you have confidence in your skill.  I know some sports are very competitive and the team is small.  However, there are some sports that are more inclusive, and you basically “cut yourself,” if you are not responsible with practices, etc.  Take a physical education class to guarantee daily activity.  The pressure is that you will be evaluated, which can be a good thing. Who wants a bad PE grade on a transcript?

As a school counselor, I had many students approach me about their weight and health issues. After several inquiries, I encouraged my concerned counselees to speak to one of our popular PE teachers, and she developed a physical fitness class for students who lacked confidence in their athleticism.  They became very popular for all students. They also reaped the benefits from healthier eating habits.

Many programs, school and community, include various dance and aerobic options which students, male and female, can enjoy.  In addition to improved fitness, students can enhance their confidence, social skills, and studies.

In the past, I’ve written articles at the beginning of a year pertaining to educational resolutions.  My perspective for 2013 is to “look outside the box” with a strategy that might build confidence and improve grades.  In order to achieve holistically, start with a healthy outlook.  You deserve it!!