Are advanced placement courses, such as AP Literature, still relevant and useful for students to advance in academic content knowledge?  Are advanced placement courses, such as AP...

Are advanced placement courses, such as AP Literature, still relevant and useful for students to advance in academic content knowledge?  

Are advanced placement courses, such as AP Literature, still relevant and useful for students to advance in academic content knowledge?

Asked on by kars10b

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mshurn's profile pic

Susan Hurn | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

To #10, I agree completely. I've taught both, and I think an Honors course is exactly what you said--an AP class without the baggage.

I'm not sure of the dates when AP came into high school curriculums. I know they go back to the early 90s, at least, but how far back, I'm not sure. I've wondered about the relationship between the rise of AP classes and the rise of the 5-year bachelor degree. For decades, a BA or BS was a four-year degree. I know that in 1985, some universities were encouraging students to avoid what were once standard 16 and 17 hour semesters in favor of 12 hour semesters (minimum for full-time students), thus requiring 5 years to complete an undergradute degree. Perhaps this trend gave rise to the idea of completing college hours in high school (to "get them out of the way") in order to avoid the expense of a five-year plan. I don't know.

I do think this trend of pushing students into college work while in high school is not a good thing, provided the high school curriculum offers rigorous non-AP classes for those who need them. For example, a junior who enrolls in AP Lit misses an entire year of American lit survey. That class, when taught at the college-prep or honors level, is too valuable for a college-bound student to skip over. Just an opinion, of course.

timbrady's profile pic

timbrady | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

Posted on

An AP Literature course organized to follow a syllabus approved by the College Board would be relevant and useful in advancing academic content knowledge and skills. That is not to say that a particular AP Lit class in a particular high school would be useful or that a good course would be useful for an uninterested student. Having taught numerous courses in AP Lang & Lit over the years, my experiences have led me to some observations:

1. Only seniors should be admitted into AP classes. If an AP class is taught properly, students will be moving from junior-level work to college-freshman level work, skipping senior classes in literature/composition. That's a big academic leap. To move sophomores to college work is academically irresponsible. Imagine completing the 10th grade in English, skipping the 11th and 12th, and then enrolling in college English. That's what happens when juniors are enrolled in AP. And freshmen in AP? I can't imagine the reasoning behind that placement.

2. AP teachers may experience conflicting administrative feedback: "Do not lower expectations or water down the course," followed by "Why are so many students failing?"

3. AP students who actually read the literature, take notes, study, and revise papers they have worked hard to write do well. Students who don't, don't.

4. Students who are academically weak should not be enrolled in AP classes. Period.

So, I would say that an AP Lit class taught by a teacher who sets and enforces high academic standards would be very useful for a high school senior who wants to learn and is willing to work hard.

   How does this AP course differ from an Honors course?  I think you can do all the same academic things without some of the baggage the AP curriculum adds.

mshurn's profile pic

Susan Hurn | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

An AP Literature course organized to follow a syllabus approved by the College Board would be relevant and useful in advancing academic content knowledge and skills. That is not to say that a particular AP Lit class in a particular high school would be useful or that a good course would be useful for an uninterested student. Having taught numerous courses in AP Lang & Lit over the years, my experiences have led me to some observations:

1. Only seniors should be admitted into AP classes. If an AP class is taught properly, students will be moving from junior-level work to college-freshman level work, skipping senior classes in literature/composition. That's a big academic leap. To move sophomores to college work is academically irresponsible. Imagine completing the 10th grade in English, skipping the 11th and 12th, and then enrolling in college English. That's what happens when juniors are enrolled in AP. And freshmen in AP? I can't imagine the reasoning behind that placement.

2. AP teachers may experience conflicting administrative feedback: "Do not lower expectations or water down the course," followed by "Why are so many students failing?"

3. AP students who actually read the literature, take notes, study, and revise papers they have worked hard to write do well. Students who don't, don't.

4. Students who are academically weak should not be enrolled in AP classes. Period.

So, I would say that an AP Lit class taught by a teacher who sets and enforces high academic standards would be very useful for a high school senior who wants to learn and is willing to work hard.

timbrady's profile pic

timbrady | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

Posted on

To set the stage, I haven't taught AP courses in about 5 years.  I taught them because someone had to do it, but I doubt that they are the best way for students to explore the best literature in an atmosphere that leads to risk taking, sharing, and constructive writing.  There was so much stuff to "cover," and there was the time invested in getting ready for the test.  And there were all those terms they had to learn and try to apply ... when they could have been reading more.

This is not to say that AP courses aren't good; as someone suggested, that depends on the teacher, the students, and many other variables.  Sadly, many student leave AP English classes with 3 credits colleges may or may not accept, with lots of knowledge of literary "things," but no abiding love of and interest in literature.  I don't think it's worth it; I'm sure most AP English teachers do :)

drmonica's profile pic

drmonica | (Level 2) Associate Educator

Posted on

It all depends on the quality of the instruction in the AP course. Properly taught, AP courses expose students to college-level work. Statistics compiled by the College Board demonstrate that even AP students who are unable to score 3 or higher on an AP exam are more likely to finish college, because they know what to expect.

alohaspirit's profile pic

alohaspirit | Middle School Teacher | (Level 2) Assistant Educator

Posted on

Yes it is!  AP courses allow students to read college level texts which will help prepare them for college.  Also AP courses create a classroom environment that is similar to a college level class. The rigor of the curriculum in any AP subject area is preparing them for the higher level critical thinking they will need to have in college.  The content is the backdrop, its really about the skills of the any AP course that will help them achieve.

dalepowell1962's profile pic

dalepowell1962 | College Teacher | (Level 2) Assistant Educator

Posted on

I like your wording of the question and as you ask it, I would concur that, "Yes, such courses are worth it."  Consider this: A student in an AP course is likely to be exposed to literature that he or she would never be exposed to in the regular high school curriculum. So I would recommend taking an AP course over not taking one if that is the only option.

Having said that, I want to explain the vantage point I am speaking from.  I have taught two full time jobs since 2000- by day, a gifted coordinator in a K-12 setting.  By night (and also full-time), I teach freshman university composition and literature courses.  From being in these places, I can assure you that AP does not pull what it once did in terms of academic rigor.  Therefore, more students are failing the examinations, thus resulting in no college credit.

I recommend that my students take advantage of Post-secondary options at universities if they are available in your state (as they are in Ohio).

 

MaudlinStreet's profile pic

MaudlinStreet | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Senior Educator

Posted on

My response is: absolutely! In fact, the continuation of NCLB, combined with the economic situation, makes AP classes the last haven of advanced content knowledge. Because they are designed as college-level courses, students learn terms, techniques, and analysis they wouldn't be exposed to for another 3 years with a non-AP schedule. With so many other courses forced to conform to standardized tests, AP classes remain one of the only places for open discussion and true, in-depth study of content. Because teachers generally have more freedom in these courses, there is more opportunity to explore everything literature (or any other discipline) has to offer. Students who take AP courses are generally more prepared for higher education, with better-developed skills for succeeding in college.

The shame of most AP programs is that they are not open. I believe that open enrollment is essential to ensuring that every student has equal access to the knowledge gained in AP courses.

boryung's profile pic

boryung | Middle School Teacher

Posted on

I took the AP Literature exam last year, and took the AP Literature course for a year. My answer is that the AP Literature exam can be useful, but that it certainly isn't necessary for studying literature.

In my AP Literature class, I analyzed and discussed a lot of literature. That was certainly helpful, and I learned a lot.

The AP Literature exam, however, felt like a SAT Critical Reading test, except that the passages were classic literature instead of random pieces about nothing of real importance.

I feel that students can learn a lot about literature without the AP course. In fact, some students may be able to learn more if they can excape the boundaries of the AP Literature exam, its specific style of questions, and the range of literay work it covers.

epollock's profile pic

epollock | (Level 3) Valedictorian

Posted on

Yes it is!  AP courses allow students to read college level texts which will help prepare them for college.  Also AP courses create a classroom environment that is similar to a college level class. The rigor of the curriculum in any AP subject area is preparing them for the higher level critical thinking they will need to have in college.  The content is the backdrop, its really about the skills of the any AP course that will help them achieve.

That is not necessarily the case. For 50% of the AP classes, they are not taken by seniors but by freshmen and sophomores. And depending on the circumstances, it might not be in the student's best interest. 

I also teach AP Human Geography but it is only open to freshmen high school students. I can't say that it is a rigorous class nor would I expect freshmen students to be at the college level.  If that was true, what's the point of high school.

Also many of our students go to the best Ivy League schools without taking AP classes. Again, it's all about circumstances.

There are even CLEP exams which are an alternative and might offer benefits to takers.

epollock's profile pic

epollock | (Level 3) Valedictorian

Posted on

kars10b,

That's a question that can best be answered after knowing additional information. Are there any classes that are after the AP courses? Are there any alternatives to the courses?

If one looks at the 35 or so AP courses that are offered by the College Board, one can see a great variety from learning content course material to developing analytical skills. Most of the courses are in the upper high school-level area and about 20% are freshmen-level classes. That leaves a quandary.  Are all AP classes college-level if some are mostly taken by high school freshmen in the 9th grade, such as Human Geography, etc.?  The answer is clearly no.

But that doesn't mean one should shy away from the challenge and not take it. If there are no alternatives, then by all means take the classes. It all determines how motivated one is in learning material and how suitable one is for the class.

When I recommend classes for students to take, I always take into account their own personal situation.

 

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