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Extra Credit: Finding a Solution to the IB vs. AP Dilemma

Dear Extra Credit:

My son is attending an International Baccalaureate high school in Fairfax County, and I have been reading with interest the discussions regarding IB vs. Advanced Placement. A colleague who lives in the Charlotte area also has a son in an IB high school. That school system has attempted to deal with the IB/AP issue by preparing their IB students for not only the IB exams, but also for the AP exams.

It is my understanding that the students in the North Carolina school have the regular IB curriculum, but that the school also gives them a prep class on the ins and outs of the AP exams and the option to take both exams.

The principal at my son's high school told me that the school counselor could help us make arrangements for my son to take the AP exams (at our expense, of course). We are exploring this option. Such an option might solve the IB vs. AP issue for others.
Eleaner Loos
Fairfax County

This is a practical and popular solution to the problem, but wouldn't it make more sense for colleges to start giving the same credit for single-year IB courses and tests that they do for single-year AP courses and tests? Research shows they are pretty much the same in content and rigor. Most colleges decline even to explain their inexplicable policy on this. It is comparable to your child learning to write dates and numbers in Arabic numerals, then being told by the colleges that they will not accept any application that does not write each number out in English: two-thousand nine instead of 2009.

Dear Extra Credit:

Regarding mandated preschool programs ["Questioning the Benefits of Preschool for the Middle Class," Oct. 23,], I've been around long enough that I remember when even kindergarten was not available in the Maryland public schools. I graduated from the University of Maryland with a degree in early-childhood education in 1972, and I have been teaching in that field ever since. I've taught pre-kindergarten, kindergarten and first grade at public (33 years) and private (three years) schools continuously since 1972.

I currently teach kindergarten. I've served on state and county curriculum-writing teams. In the beginning, pre-kindergarten and kindergarten focused on the social and emotional development of the child. Language development was also emphasized in many programs. Children had time to interact (i.e., play) with each other, explore their environments, ask questions and perform age-appropriate activities. Direct experiences were considered to be of utmost importance.

With the onset of testing, testing, testing, I see children as young as 4 being asked (and the answers being recorded) as to whether two words begin with the same sound. These include children who don't even speak English. Every moment of every day is scheduled, with no time allowed for play. Recess is down to 20 minutes and is nonexistent in many schools.

A good pre-kindergarten or kindergarten program can do so much to help children grow and develop. But if you compare what was being done in the Perry Preschool program and what is being done now, you'll find a vast difference. Once upon a time, the curriculum fit the child. Now, the child fits the curriculum. Counties feel pressure to show that all their kindergarten students can read, regardless of whether the child understands what's being read. The Perry Preschool was all about providing direct experiences for the child. Today's kindergarten seems to want to jump directly to representational material without providing the background basis for it.

I love teaching children. I work within the county's framework, and I try to enrich and expand it wherever possible, as I'm sure many other teachers do. I just find it frustrating that the value of exploring, practicing and interacting with each other is not given the credence and value it deserves. It's as if there's something wrong with children being engaged in meaningful play, even though we as adults find meaning in playing sports, working on craft projects or playing a game with friends.
Margaret Sigler
Anne Arundel County teacher, retired

This does not sound like the kindergarten classes I have watched in action. Would kindergarten teachers and parents please enlighten me? Has there been a great change, and is it hurting our kids?

Dear Extra Credit:

Unfortunately, in a society in which both parents having jobs is commonplace, most families cannot home-school. I sometimes think about how much money I could have if I were working full time. Then I remember my kids will be grown soon, and I will have lots of time to work.

The first year was rough with my oldest, getting to know her again. Now our relationship is stronger than ever. Many moms say they could never do it because their kids don't listen to them or they don't get along. That would be the main reason to home-school. Do they think a stranger will improve the relationship or the parent's ability to discipline?
I can cater to my children's strengths and weaknesses. Each works ahead or at level in all subjects. We are able to go to "school" four days and have a flex day for field trips or catching up. We can go on vacation during off times or stay longer by taking school with us.

I hope that home-schoolers will also receive benefits someday. We pay taxes but pay for all of our home-school materials and training. I have my kids tested at the end of the year so that I can see where we were successful and what we need to work on. Kids staying home means more housework, less quiet time and less income. My children are a blessing to me, so where else should I put my time and effort? Someday, my kids will go back to public school, but when they are ready and the school is appropriate.
Michelle Cox

When will they go back to public school, and why? Home schooling sounds good for all ages. I welcome more letters from home-schoolers.

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

By Washington Post Editors  | January 29, 2009; 1:36 PM ET
Categories:  Extra Credit  
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