Spin off from teens/work/school question

iVillage Member
Registered: 09-04-1997
Spin off from teens/work/school question
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Tue, 04-29-2003 - 1:33pm
This is slightly off-topic, and that thread is getting so huge, I thought I'd try another one. Here's the question about over-committed teens -- Do you think that schools ought to have some limits or guidelines to how many different AP/honors courses kids can take in one semester? In my nephew's school, they tell the kids "it's wise" not to try more than three a semester; at the same time if a kid handles three well in the sophomore year it's not uncommon for the guidance counselor to say, "Well, maybe you're the exceptional one who can handle four..." It really bothers me that these kids are turning into little "A" machines -- and the really sad part is that a lot of times, getting the "A" is more important than actually learning something...it's all about building a resumé, even at the tender age of 16.

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iVillage Member
Registered: 03-26-2003
Tue, 04-29-2003 - 1:39pm
No. Not unless schools are going to limit involvement in paid jobs, volunteering, Scouting and athletics also. It's real hard to get A after A in really tough subjects without actually learning the material. I'm in favor of basing it on the individual student.

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iVillage Member
Registered: 03-26-2003
Tue, 04-29-2003 - 2:56pm
That's something that each family would have to decide. I don't see how the school could put that kind of a limit on students. If the kid thinks he can handle it, why not let him try? If he can't, then he should move back to a standard HS class.

I don't know about that "A-machine" concept, either. If the only goal was to get an "A", wouldn't the kid pick an easier class? The AP class is a whole lot more work for that same "A".

iVillage Member
Registered: 09-04-1997
Tue, 04-29-2003 - 3:11pm
No, students who are "A Machines" do not pick the easiest classes. They pick the classes that they think will look best to the college recruiters, or in college (where I teach) to the medical school recruiters, etc. Teaching honors college courses can either be sheer delight, when the course is peopled by curious students eager to know more about the material and concepts, or it can be sheer hell, when it is is dominated by "resumé builders" who are only there to add a line to their vitae.
iVillage Member
Registered: 03-26-2003
Tue, 04-29-2003 - 3:28pm
Teachers have been complaining about "A machines" FOREVER. So the solution is what? Only teach the "well rounded" students who'd rather be hanging out at the mall or working than in school?

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iVillage Member
Registered: 03-27-2003
Tue, 04-29-2003 - 3:40pm
how many ap/honors courses *can* a kid take at once.

i was graduated from hs twenty years ago, and i went to an inner-city school that was more geared toward voc ed than college prep, but honors and ap were one and the same and only offered in the basics--algebra, geometry, biology, chemistry, and english--and the program was set up so you could take algebra and biology in your jounior year, geometry and chemistry in your senior year, and english either year, if you were trying to take them all--no need to take any more than three at a time to do them all. do children try to cram all five or so honors/ap classes into one year? or is this another area where schools are gutting the meaning so that every kid and his imaginary friend gets to be in honors courses--honors band, honors sex ed, honors sand box?

iVillage Member
Registered: 09-04-1997
Tue, 04-29-2003 - 3:41pm
I don't think "well-rounded" students would rather be working or hanging out at the mall than at school, generally.

I think one thing we as parents could be doing is emphasizing the process of learning, delight in discovery, and the taking of intellectual and creative risks more than rewarding outcomes.....I have a first grader, for instance, and he writes lovely stories. One was about a "The feroshus dobrmn" in his first draft he did for homework, but when it came back from school, he'd amended the title to be "the bad dog." Since he was getting graded on neatness and spelling rather than originality, he decided not to take any chances with creativity. First steps toward the creation of an A machine, if you ask me....

As educators, we need to find ways to allow students to explore without failing...and without thinking a B is failing. Right now I am teaching an upper-division course on the Vikings; at least half a dozen students are loving the course but told me that they were afraid to sign up for it because they weren't history majors, were just curious about the subjects, but didn't want to risk "ruining" their GPA with a B (God forbid!) in an upper-leve course. I think it's sad when kids are afraid to try something because they're agraid they might not be good at it.....another reason to expose kids to a lot during early childhood, when they're still spontaneous enought to dance, paint, or play ball for the sheer joy of it, without worrying about what kind of grade they're going to get, or how they'll compare to their peers in the class!

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-26-2003
Tue, 04-29-2003 - 3:44pm
AP classes for us weren't "honors" classes, they were actual college level courses. My high school offered English, calculus, history, biology, chemistry, physics ... oh gee, I can't remember the others. I think 12 or 15 in all.

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iVillage Member
Registered: 09-04-1997
Tue, 04-29-2003 - 3:51pm
At the high school my nephew attends, there are distinctions between honors courses and designated AP course. Yes, there are "honors" course in just about anything...it usually involves a regular college prep course that you sign up for extra stuff and there is some kind of formula where an "A" in an honors course counts something like 4.20 toward your

GPA, so if you take six honors courses a year and get a B in something, you can still graduate with a 4.0 average....

Then ther are AP courses, which prepare you to take the advanced placement exams which mean, basically, that you can, with a good enough score on an AP exam, test out of a lot of freshman-level courses at college/university. parents like this because it sometimes means kids can get through college in three years. There's AP everything: American history, European history, foreign language, calculus, biology, chemistry, composition, government, physics, statistics, and I don't know what all else.

My nephew is taking 3 AP courses and 3 honors course THIS SEMESTER!

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-27-2003
Tue, 04-29-2003 - 3:52pm
what i meant was that in my school there was no separate "honors" category--just ap classes in which you could do additional work on top of your ap prep that could qualify you for the "honors" designation. i know that some schools have seperate honors classes, but there just wasn't enough program depth in my school for that to make sense; the two-dozen college-bound kids in my class were barely enough to justify offering ap, much less any effort to create parallel classes in addition.
iVillage Member
Registered: 03-27-2003
Tue, 04-29-2003 - 4:04pm
in 11518.10 i explain that i know the difference between the two. i guess i do consider your nephew's school's honors program a dumbing-down, if the point is to let kids pad their resumes--to hide those 3.0+ foibles. over the past few years i've received several resumes where kids note their higher-than-4.0 gpa, and all i get from that is that their school handed the kids the tools to make their gpas incomparable to other applicants' and of dubious overall merit.

but so do many colleges accept these reams of ap credits? judging from your list, a kid could easily comp out of two or three, maybe four semesters, which would be nice for mom and dad's wallet, but hard on the schools--especially if there was any comprehesive structure to their freshman programs. and how do the colleges and hs's coordinate that number of programs? do the colleges just trust that the hs administration and teachers will keep up with their programatic goals?

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