In Va., a better approach to AP participation
By Karl Ackerman
As a father of two children in Virginia public high schools and a Parent Teacher Organization officer, I read with interest the comments of Virginia Superintendent of Public Instruction Patricia I. Wright on the role of the Virginia Standards of Learning program in preparing students for Advanced Placement courses [“Md. leads in a key AP test ranking,” Metro, Feb. 11].
Ms. Wright said, “More of our young people are ready for the challenge of AP courses because of the Standards of Learning program, which has raised the instructional floor for all students.” My observations in the past 13 years lead to a different conclusion.
SOL tests do not promote the critical-thinking skills required for success in AP courses. These tests are at best a minimal standard. For struggling students, they are a low bar to be cleared by rote learning and practice in test-taking skills.
A better approach to promoting AP participation among these students: Boost reading and math skills and encourage enrollment in honors-level courses. For high-achieving students, SOL tests interfere with time better spent studying for AP classes. If AP participation is the goal, high school students who consistently pass SOL tests and who are now enrolled in one or more AP courses should be exempt from additional SOL testing, thus freeing them for higher-level study.
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