Since World War II high school students have become increasingly used to government imposed standardized testing: its language, its implications, its impact. Graduation tests and college admissions tests like the SAT are hotly disputed, but the Advanced Placement testing program is a breath of fresh air in comparison and not only is it praised by many but it is actively expanding. The College Board has created both the SAT and the AP programs and is prepared to defend and praise each one indiscriminately, and to insist that America needs tests. Most standardized tests are unqualified to say anything meaningful about students' inspiration but the AP program has redeeming qualities which demonstrate the benefits of taking the focus of education back to motivation and challenge and away from tests and numbers.
[...] were needed to make sure that people were competent with basic skills requiring intelligence. Few considered that if a person is incompetent in those skills they must either acquire them eventually or become complete failures. It seems unlikely that everyone in America would suddenly be at risk of incompetence. But then again, according to education analyst Gerald Bracey, the introduction of mass testing did coincide with fears over Soviet rivalry and colleges couldn't provide the needed engineers and scientists who would combat the Menace” unless they were assured of the quality of graduating high school students (par. [...]
[...] A common misuse of AP tests is to take as many of them as possible, making them “resume padders” which gives a false impression of intellectual curiousity. Students will also favor an AP class over a class that they are genuinely interested in which is not offered as an AP. While it would be hoped that the actual AP material is enticing enough to make students actually want to learn, there is no way to test motives. Students may not be able to ride into college with just high SAT scores anymore but if they wished they could just as easily get 3s on AP tests and then slip through state universities with lots of credit and no intention of benefitting or enriching the university, or of learning sincerely. [...]
[...] But students must not do well on those because they are unrewarding and dull, whereas the AP tests have become a way to accurately gauge a student's abilities and send them to the “finest colleges in the country.” According to the College Board the new AP program would “allow motivated students to work at the height of their capabilities and advance as quickly as possible” History of the AP Program” par. The College Board chooses its words carefully, it is concerned with “motivated” students who want to challenge themselves, not with bright slackers. [...]
[...] Escalante was inspiring and talented enough to transform his students from a group of gangsters and dropout types into bright students, every single one of whom passed (got a 3 on) the AP Calculus exam (“Stand and Deliver” 1). Today 155 students take AP Calculus at the High School History of the par. 12). Of course, not all schools and AP programs have met with the same success, but no graduation exam can boast such a dramatic turnaround. And in general the APs have been greeted with praise as a step up for education. [...]
[...] Ideally, all schools would be equally well-equipped with resources, but when teachers are forced to teach to tests it becomes even harder to motivate and inspire students. Students who drop out or know only their basic intelligence skills cannot realize how smart they are if they cannot find their limits. Standardized tests have been in widespread use the last half-century for various reasons to make sure that students are learning everything that they need to, but they are not ensuring that students learn what they want to, or that students want to learn. [...]
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