Is it May already? It must be since, just like the flowers (and weeds), Jay Mathews’ annual list of the “top US high schools” is back.
The national “challenge” index, a simplistic ranking based solely on the number of students taking AP and IP tests, is on the web now and will be in the dead-tree edition of Newsweek later in the week.
It’s interesting that only one of the ten responses offers unqualified support for his scheme.
I love the list, not least because we have been moving up and it can be noticed by parents, community and even bosses!
And it’s all about PR.
Another has nothing to do with how the index has affected the writer’s school but instead spotlights several of the more complex problems facing American education.
I think the reason our school systems are not very good compared to other countries is that we underestimate the abilities of our children. I think too the education field is fuzzy — not very good data or evidence to support the programs that are out there. . . . More and better research is needed. And of course there are the socioeconomic/family issues of some schools/districts that cannot/will not be fixed with just higher expectations.
That last sentence also spotlights one of the great weaknesses of pushing AP/IB as a simple panacea.
But several of the emails he received did try to fulfill Mathews request by discussing the influence the index has had on their school. Most are examples of how the number of students taking AP and IB classes were pumped up, some with successful results, some not.
However, in the end, it’s this assessment that explains just what is wrong with the simplistic concept behind this ranking.
Not all kids welcome or are adept at doing college work in the high school. If kids’ working at a college level in high school becomes de rigueur, why don’t we just put the little buggers in college? Why don’t we put middle-schoolers into the high school? Why can’t kindergartners take on middle school work? Developmentally, kids are individual souls who progress in a sort of lopsided hobble toward adulthood. By assuming that one size [in this case, AP] fits all, we have demeaned our students’ very identities and individuality.