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Admissions 101: How qualified are AP teachers?

In Admissions 101, a conversation has been bubbling over the last week about the qualifications of most AP teachers.

Patrickmattimore1 thinks teachers are well prepared:

The College Board works hard to ensure that high-school teachers are qualified to teach AP subjects. In addition to requiring a course syllabus, there are hundreds of workshops each year where both novice and advanced teachers are trained. AP classes use college textbooks, and the teachers are equipped with instructor's manuals identical to those provided to college professors.

OscarWilde has a different take:

Really? Well, let's see. The syllabus checking is a joke (and who is ensuring that teachers actually teach what's on it, anyway, after it's checked?) and school districts are not required to send their teachers to the training sessions, and many don't, to save money.
Perhaps there are more qualified AP teachers in psychology, but in math and science school districts struggle to find qualified teachers, period, forget about qualified AP teachers. Often the most senior teacher (who is not necessarily the most qualified) gets to teach AP. This was the case with my son's AP bio teacher. A very nice lady who read straight from a packet and was not able to answer students' questions. If my son had not taken a true introductory college bio course over the summer and had not studied on his own, he would not have gotten a 5 on the AP bio test. This is a top school district, by the way, and the same teacher still teaches AP bio. The same school has incompetent AP Calc teachers, too. Basically, if you have a BS degree in something remotely related to math, you are considered qualified to teach AP Calculus.
And before I get accused of attacking teachers, let me add that there are also many competent and dedicated AP teachers out there, and I had a pleasure to meet quite a few through my work organizing high school math competitions. But to claim that CB somehow "works hard" to ensure all AP teachers are qualified is, frankly, naive.

Join the discussion in Admissions 101 or in the comments below.

By Washington Post Editors  | May 12, 2009; 11:39 AM ET
Categories:  Admissions 101  | Tags:  AP, teacher qualifications  
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My son is completing his junior year and has taken 2 APs and 1 Ib course in 10th grade adn is taking the tests for 2 AP and 1 IB class this year. Next year he will have a schedule with 7 IB or AP classes. Each course has been led by a really gifted teacher that, not only has taught the material so that he is well prepared for the exams, but has demonstrated creative and stimulating teaching methods. I went to a top university and I think his AP/IB teachers have been as good or better than my profs in my intro liberal arts classes.
My main worry is that my son will be disappointed and bored in his classes in college. Really.

My second worry is that not all the kids get access to these teachers and these classes. It seems unfair that "regular" classes are so unimaginative and uninspiring...classes don't have to be horribly demanding to be fun and interesting. I really think that each AP/IB class teacher should pair up with their "regular" counterparts and team teach for 3 weeks per year. So, if Raisin in the Sun is the most enjoyable part of AP English...then regular AND HILT 11th grade English classes should merge with the AP for that portion of the course...the kids interact and sit together, the teachers tag team the course work, read the play out loud as an integrated class, take the test and watch the movie together. Currently, AP and regular kids are segregated from 10th grade onward...they don't even know each other when they sit side by side at graduation. This is such a shame...a few weeks together enjoying the same literature or same science experiment could be transformative--both ways!

Posted by: samclare | May 13, 2009 9:05 AM | Report abuse

I suspect your odds of getting a qualified teacher are better in high school than in a college class. In high school you have a) more contact time b) smaller classes c) papers graded by the teacher as compared to a teaching assistant d) people who choose to be teachers not researchers who teach on the side.

Just like non-AP classes, sometimes you have good teachers, some times you have average teachers, some times you have poor teachers. Let's not just reserve the best teachers for the upper level classes.

Posted by: teach1 | May 15, 2009 9:23 PM | Report abuse

In any profession there is a range of competencies - this holds true for the teaching profession. I am a college professor, at a small, rural, strictly undergraduate liberal arts college. My class sizes are small. My office door is always open - and my students know that means they can come in and talk about class, life, etc. I do all the grading, and I am a teacher who does research on the side. That is the mission of colleges like mine. In the large research institutions, of course the focus is on research - that is why they are called research institutions.
I can honestly say I see no difference in ability between students who have taken AP/IB courses and those who have not. The only way I know they have taken them is when they tell me. As most things in life, it is more about the individual student and abilities than the test or course they have taken.

Posted by: robinsnest | May 17, 2009 8:11 AM | Report abuse

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