Weights In The Balance

Published 4:50 pm Thursday, July 7, 2011

PRINCE EDWARD – It was a weighty discussion, but in the end the balance of a four to three vote – with one abstention – school board members at their June meeting approved grade point and class average calculations that will be placed in the high school's program of studies.

Set to be implemented with the class of 2013, the approved plan places more emphasis on performance for students taking AP and four-year college courses.

While students will still earn a half point more in their grade point average calculations for class rank, those who complete AP courses must achieve a three-five score on the corresponding AP exam; those taking off-campus four-year courses must achieve at least a “B” in the course to receive the additional half point.

Email newsletter signup

Still, though, it was not a unanimous decision.

“I thought about this at length and came to the conclusion that this is an attempt to solve what really isn't a problem,” offered school board member Dr. Ellery Sedgwick of the proposed change.

Dr. Sedgwick suggested that it was going to create a lot of problems and made a motion that they continue with the scale they have for another year and appoint a committee composed of teachers that instruct dual enrollment and AP courses and possibly the Director of Instruction and someone from administration and a guidance counselor to work through it.

Dr. Sedgwick suggested it's a question of motivation, assessing their AP program initiative was set up specifically to encourage those who might not enroll in AP to do so.

“And I think that the effect of this is gonna be to discourage them…Why should they enroll in an AP course and take a chance on getting college credit, maybe not get college credit, probably not get college credit, when they can take a dual enrollment course and they're guaranteed the college credit,” he said. “They need some sort of incentive to take the challenge and to take the AP course.”

Dr. Sedgwick cited that a student would get the same weighting for an AP calculus course as they would for dual enrollment word processing or CAD (computer assisted drafting) or the same for three nursing courses.

AP students, under the current system, must take and score between a three and a five on the AP exam to receive college credit. Students who take and pass dual enrollment courses receive college credit.

“I think you earn a grade by taking on a challenging curriculum,” Dr. Sedgwick cited. “If these kids take on that challenge, more power to them. I want them to get the credit.”

He also cited the logistics of having to go back and bump up the grades of students passing the AP exams during the summer and Dr. Sedgwick cited that teachers from the high school note they have not been consulted.

“We responded to the board interest in making this change,” Executive Director of Curriculum and Instruction Laura Williamson would later explain. “And so we discussed it administratively…”

Division Superintendent Dr. David Smith, when asked for advice prior to the vote, noted the reason it was set up was to provide encouragement for students to take the AP classes, recognizing that some who take AP classes-just like some who take college classes-may not do as well as others “and this still allows a partial weighting of a half point for attempting the class. It also provides motivation for students who take the class to do well on the AP exam by recognizing that with an additional half point.”

He also cited that, through the B level, the credit is enhanced at the same level as the four-year college.

“Where this runs into problems is with the recognition of the way the local community college handles dual enrollment credits and the fact that they will not allow college credit for any AP class, regardless of the outcome,” Dr. Smith said. “And so the weighting that we apply is higher than what the students are running into…in the dual enrollment classes. And so that is another complication that we really were kind of powerless to be able to address.”

The motivation, he offered, was trying to show a way to provide some additional push to students to achieve at a higher level in the AP classes.

Students passing AP courses, but do not achieve a three or higher on their AP test, would not receive dual enrollment credit. Dr. Sedgwick suggested that the students have a strong incentive for choosing the dual enrollment credit because they are assured of a college credit for that course and that there would be no such assurance with an AP course.

AP, however, offers some advantages in that students are tested to a national norm, with earned credits (and successful passing of the AP test) putting them on par with those across the country. Dual enrollment courses are recognized at in-state institutions.