On high school rankings and AP tests

I don't write much about education policy, but here's one for the high school and college students in the MyDD community (and their parents).

Newsweek just published its annual list of the top 1,500 public high schools in the U.S. I wrote up a piece for Bleeding Heartland about the six Iowa high schools on Newsweek's list. There are a few problems with the rankings, based solely on one figure: "the number of Advanced Placement, Intl. Baccalaureate and/or Cambridge tests taken by all students at a school in 2008 divided by the number of graduating seniors."

Of course, many other factors go into making a high school "good," such as a welcoming environment for students from diverse backgrounds, opportunities to participate in a wide range of extracurriculars, meeting the needs of lower-performing students. Also, some excellent Iowa high schools didn't make the list, perhaps because they cover lower-income neighborhoods as well as prosperous areas.

But there's another problem with Newsweek's ranking: it assumes that the more AP tests high school students take, the better. One Bleeding Heartland user has learned the hard way about the pitfalls of piling up AP credits in high school.

Rachael Giertz posted her recent letter to the editor of the Des Moines Register, along with further comments about her experience, in this diary at Bleeding Heartland. Giertz did what she was supposed to do in high school--she took lots of AP classes and sat for lots of exams (which are more expensive than I realized--something like $90 per test now). Consequently, she was able to graduate from college in three years. However, when she applied to graduate schools, she found that she was not eligible because she had skipped some college-level courses (like first year chemistry) thanks to AP.

I believe it's valuable for high school students to take AP classes as an introduction to college-level work. If money is not an issue, students may as well take the AP tests to see how well they've learned the material. However, after reading Giertz's diary I am going to warn any college students thinking about graduate studies not to skip college courses that may be prerequisites for grad school applications.  

High school AP teachers and guidance counselors should warn students about the risks of using AP credits to graduate from college early.

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Zero unemployment: A 3-point Back to School Program

We're worried about the potential for massive unemployment, right?  Most estimates put it at 8% unemployment next year, with more dire predictions pegging it at up to 15%.

The problem of unemployment might be especially bad among young people, many of whom have no experience or past skills to market, just potential. Worse still, with unemployment comes crime.

That's why I propose as part of stimulus that the federal government make community college enrollment free for the next 2 years and subsidize state universities; in exchange we ask these schools to increase enrollments and create buzz in their local communities spurring students to go to college to get an AA or BS or MS degree.

How much will this cost?  Let's figure that out...

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Obama visited Pakistan in College?

A story that ran in the Huffington Post was actually meant to point out Obama's arrogance regarding foreign policy, however I found the part about his travels to Pakistan during College to be more interesting since we had not heard this before. Obama stated at a San Francisco fundraiser the other night that he did not need a VP with foreign policy experience because he knew enough and had more FP experience than either John McCain or Hillary Clinton.

He pointed to a trip he took to Pakistan in College to visit his mother (who was living there at the time).

The writer went on to point out his arrogrance when he compared his college trip to Pakistan and few years in Indonesia as reason enough to claim he had better foreign policy experience than McCain or Clinton.

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How Democrats Win The White House

Democrats can win the White House, IF they get the majority of electoral votes.  Each state is assigned a number of electoral college votes, based on population.

'Blue' states are ones that commonly vote democratic.  'Red' states commonly vote Republican.  'Purple' states, also known as 'swing states', can be one by either party.  Purple states are the ones that each party wants to win to put them 'over the top'.

The way democrats can win the White House is to win all of our 'blue' states and as many of the 'purple' states as possible.  So, just as in any sporting event, you want to put your best player out there to win you as many points as possible.  Well, Hillary is that winner, and I have the figures to prove it........

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A College-Worthy Essay

Many of us know about the work John and Elizabeth Edwards have done on behalf of young people -- from the computer lab set up in their son Wade's name to the College for Everyone program in Greene County NC to help high school students from this rural and impoverished area go on to college.

[cross-posted at JRE blog]

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